Are all Antibiotics safe for children?

The use of antibiotics for children is often a crucial step in treating certain illnesses that affect them. However, not all antibiotics are safe for children, which I'll talk about in detail in this article.

Dr. Hossam Al Tatari
Published on:Jan 16th 2024 |Updated on:Mar 10th 2024
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Why do pediatricians prescribe antibiotics?

Pediatricians prescribe antibiotics for children when infected with bacteria that may cause inflammation in the throat, ear, intestines, or other conditions. Typically, the doctor prescribes this type of treatment after conducting a thorough examination to confirm the presence of bacteria that need treatment. It's important to note that antibiotics are not prescribed when the child's illness is caused by a virus, regardless of how worrisome the symptoms may be or whether there is a fever. In such cases, the doctor may recommend fever-reducing medications, prescribe suitable treatment, and provide care and follow-up instructions based on the child's condition.

Important notes about giving antibiotics to children

There is misuse of antibiotics and overprescription for children, so it's essential to highlight the following:

  • Antibiotics should not be given to treat throat infections in children under two years old.
  • Antibiotics for throat infections are prescribed for children over two years old only after confirming the presence of bacteria through a throat swab.
  • Antibiotics do not treat fever but rather the bacteria that may rarely be the cause of a child's fever.
  • A child is not considered to have a bacterial respiratory infection requiring antibiotics just because they cough without experiencing a decline in breathing quality and oxygen levels.
  • Diarrhea is not a symptom that necessitates antibiotic treatment.

Are all types of antibiotics safe?

When doctors determine the need for a child to take antibiotics, they prescribe the appropriate medication based on the child's illness, age, and weight. Most antibiotics are safe when used according to proper medical instructions and guidelines. However, a common type of antibiotic in the Cephalosporins group is potent in treating severe infections.

This group has appeared in several generations, and some well-known brand names include:

  • First generation: Cephalexin
  • Second generation: Cefuroxime, Cefprozil
  • Third generation: Cefexim, Cefdinir

Many doctors prefer prescribing these antibiotics because they are administered once a day, and children find them pleasant, making it easy for them to take. However, the excessive use of these powerful antibiotics has destroyed many beneficial bacteria in the child's gut, mutating a large portion of these helpful bacteria into antibiotic-resistant bacteria called ESBL.

The pediatrician mustn't prescribe these antibiotics as the first option, leaving them as a last resort if less severe treatments do not work. Before prescribing this antibiotic, it is advisable to consult an infectious disease specialist.

It is important to note that there is a difference in the drug's effectiveness against bacteria during laboratory experiments. Just because a drug overcomes bacteria in lab tests does not necessarily mean it will successfully treat all cases of ear infections caused by the same bacteria. Many studies have confirmed the disappointment in treating various infections using these potent antibiotics. Therefore, it is essential to review the recommendations of different pediatric associations, considering their opinions based on actual studies and real-world experiences rather than laboratory experiments.

In conclusion, parents should be cautious and not rush to give antibiotics to children, particularly Cephalosporins. This is especially true if they notice that the pediatrician is quick to prescribe this medication without carefully examining the child, particularly if the child has received recommended vaccinations. Choosing a trustworthy pediatrician who prioritizes the child's well-being and health is vital, avoiding the hasty prescription of medications without necessity.

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Dr. Hossam Al Tatari Consultant in pediatrics

Dr. Hossam is a pediatrician, certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Dr. Al-Tatari then joined the University of Western Ontario, Canada as an adjunct professor until the summer of 2009 when he moved to Tawam Hospital in the UAE as the chief of pediatric infectious diseases. Dr. Al-Tatari has now moved to become the director of general pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases at the Heart Medical Center in Al-Ain. UAE. He meanwhile continues to work for the University of Western Ontario as a part-time faculty member. Dr. Al-Tatari has repeatedly received awards as the pediatrician and the teacher of the year in the USA, Canada, and UAE. Dr. Al-Tatari has more than 100 abstracts and articles in the field of pediatric infectious diseases. Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Al Tatari is passionate about educating parents and providing them with sound medical information and advice, to help them best care for their children’s health. He shares his knowledge through his designated YouTube channel, and his social media accounts, as well as contributing to various educational platforms.

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