Pediatricians are often faced with decisions when treating illnesses as far as when to prescribe medications or not. Specifically, often the questions come up about when are antibiotics necessary or not. Antibiotics are not effective for viral illnesses. Examples of viral illnesses include common colds, include things like the flu, most causes of vomiting and diarrhea. These are usually not caused by bacterial infections, and antibiotics typically will not help them at all.
So for that reason, we try to first assess what is causing the problem. And even then, we next just ask, “What is the severity of the issue?” Some bacterial infections will resolve on their own without antibiotics and so, not even every ear infection, especially if, say you had an older child who wasn’t running fever and had pain that you could easily control with ibuprofen or Tylenol, such a child may not have to be on an antibiotic and may clear the ear infection on their own.
And so, I certainly think that…what we try to look at are clear indications for treatment to make sure that we are not over-prescribing. So the answer as to when antibiotics are necessary really depends on what type of infection is it, and how severe is it?
Many parents wonder why children should get a checkup every year if they appear healthy. This is a great question, I would ask it too. The things that we screen for at an annual checkup are growth, development. We screen for healthy lifestyle, we screen for safety risks that may be going on. So these are all ways to help you to be not only aware of what’s going on in your child’s life, but also to help the kids learn how to gradually, over time, learn to take responsibility for their own health issues and living a healthy lifestyle.
So these are all issues that go on, and sometimes we’ll also screen for emotional issues. We may screen for mental health problems, we may discuss, you know, any developmental issues that may be going on. So these are all really important topics that, you know, you may not be aware of in a child who, you know, doesn’t appear ill.