Illnesses > Medicines > Antibiotics and Drug Resistance

Antibiotics and Drug Resistance

Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics.  If your child contracts an ear infection, strep throat, sinusitis, or a chest infection, amoxicillin or another antibiotic should clear it up.

But suppose your child gets repeated or persistent infections.  Are repeated courses of antibiotics a bad idea?

The answer is that if a child is sick, and antibiotics (or any other treatment) would significantly hasten healing, they should be used.

Remember that resistance to antibiotics is a characteristic of the bacteria, not of the child.  Even if a child is infected with a resistant organism, once that organism is killed, the next infection a month later is just as likely to be susceptible to an antibiotic as if no medication had been used originally.

In general, in a community, overuse of antibiotics does appear to be related to resistant organisms in that community.  This includes the antibiotics that are put into “antimicrobial” soaps and household products, as well as antibiotics routinely used in farm animal feed.  But this is a community issue, not an individual issue for a sick child.

So the next time you hear someone say: “My child took so many antibiotics that none of them work any more!”, you will know that this is not possible.  It is more likely that the child is susceptible to infections for a genetic or environmental reason; one can’t blame the antibiotics for that!

Medications should be used judiciously!  But be reassured that antibiotics do not lose their effectiveness in a particular child over time.

     --  David M. Epstein, MD