There has been a great deal of new information showing that one group of people in particular often gets less than superior medical treatment – children. What issues are children facing today in getting excellent medical care?

CBS news reports that one of the main issues children are having today is a doctor prescribing them superfluous antibiotics. New reports show that countless pediatricians prescribe antibiotics about two times as often as they are actually needed for children with ear and throat infections.

“More than 11 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for children and teens may be unnecessary, according to researchers from University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital. This excess antibiotic use not only fails to eradicate children's viral illnesses, researchers said, but supports the dangerous evolution of bacteria toward antibiotic resistance,” according to CBS.

What do antibiotics do?

They are drugs that kill bacteria or stop them from reproducing, and help only for bacterial infections, not viruses. But because physicians have only a couple of ways of distinguishing between viral or bacterial infections, antibiotics are often a default treatment.

How was the study conducted?

In order to decipher antibiotic prescribing rates, Dr. Kronman and his colleagues analyzed a group of English-language studies published between 2000 and 2011 and information on children 18 and younger who were analyzed in outpatient clinics. The study was published on Sunday in the journal Pediatrics.

Dr. Kronman, an infectious disease specialist from Seattle Hospital, who led the study, told CBS,

“I think it's well-known that we prescribers over prescribe antibiotics and our intent was to put a number on how often we're doing that. But as we found out, there's really been no change in this [situation] over the last decade. And we don't have easily available tools in the real-world setting to discriminate between infections caused by bacteria or viruses.”

CBS reports,

“Based on the prevalence of bacteria in ear and throat infections and the introduction of a pneumococcal vaccine that prevents many bacterial infections, the researchers estimated that about 27 percent of U.S. children with infections of the ear, sinus area, throat or upper respiratory tract had illnesses caused by bacteria. But antibiotics were prescribed for nearly 57 percent of doctors' visits for these infections, the study found.”

Dr. Newland, a pediatrics professor and expert in the area, who was not involved with the study, commented on it to CBS saying, “I thought it was really a clever study, actually, to get a sense of the burden of bacterial disease and what the antibiotic usage is. We all know when we use antibiotics that we increase the chance of resistance because bacteria evolve. We need to use them well and not in such excess doses. We have to do way better.”

Which types of tests are used to decipher between viral and bacterial infections?

A rapid strep test is presently available to decipher between bacterial or viral throat infections. However other than that test, doctors have no other clinical mechanisms to explain the cause of most upper respiratory infections, according to the research provided by the study. Dr. Kronman said he hopes the new data will not only help encourage the production of more such tools, but also inspire clinicians to think more seriously about prescribing antibiotics unless they are proven necessary.

Dr. Kronman also said that prior research indicates that parents, who many times pressure pediatricians into prescribing antibiotics, like different suggestions to alleviate their children's upper respiratory symptoms. Such alternatives include utilizing acetaminophen and humidifiers.

Dr. Newland told CBS, “We have to take this problem on as a society. The reality is that the excess, unnecessary use of antibiotics is really putting us at great risk of not having these antibiotics work in the future.”

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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