Antibiotics are a type of medication used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics are not able treat infections caused by viruses, such as the common cold, flu, or a sore throat.
If your child is suffering from a cold, cough, sore throat, flu, COVID-19, or other respiratory illness, they are sick with one of the many viruses that circulate every day in our community. These viruses can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, and they may take a significant amount of time to resolve.
The average common cold lasts anywhere from 7-10 days, but can last as long as 2 weeks. Medications to shorten the length or severity of a cold are not available, but you can talk to your child’s pediatrician about ways to help keep them comfortable.
If we over-prescribe antibiotics when they aren’t needed, something called antibiotic resistance can occur. Antibiotic resistance means that the antibiotic medication that would normally be used to treat a bacterial infection may no longer work. The resistant bacteria can be spread to others, which makes it more difficult to treat a community overall, over time.
Additionally, antibiotics can cause side effects in 10% of kids, including as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, yeast infections, rash, or allergic reactions. It’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of these possibilities before starting an unnecessary medication.
Cold medicines can cause harm to children. The risks associated with using them in young children greatly outweigh the benefits. Children under 4 years old should not be given cough medicine, and it should only be given to children 4-6 years old if recommended by their pediatrician. Children 6 years and older may use age-appropriate cough medicine if dosing instructions are closely followed.