Millions of Antibiotics Prescribed Unnecessarily to Children

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A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that antibiotics are being prescribed to children unnecessarily almost 25% of the time.  The study analyzed a nationally representative sample of almost 65,000 doctors visits by children between 2006 and 2008 and showed that one in every five visits ended with an antibiotic prescription, often a broad-spectrum one. Assuming this trend is representative of the population, this means more than 10 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions every year. Most antibiotics were given for respiratory infections – but many respiratory infections do not respond to antibiotics as they are viral in origin (ex. the flu, bronchitis, the common cold) or are a result of immune imbalance (asthma, allergies). 

Unnecessary antibiotic use can pose several problems:  it increases the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in our children and in society as a whole, and it destroys all of the beneficial bacteria in the body. The beneficial flora have many, many health-promoting effects in the digestive tract, not to mention in the mouth, vagina, and on the skin. They help us digest our food, manufacture vitamins and essential fatty acids, break down bacterial toxins, convert flavonoids into anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory compounds, keep harmful bacteria and yeast from proliferating and communicate extensively with the immune system, enhancing its function.   

So what to do when you have an infection?  There are many herbal and supplement options that are active against certain bacteria, viruses and yeast, but do not kill our good bacteria.  You can also ask your doctor how clear the diagnosis is and if it would be safe to wait a few days before administering the antibiotic.  In those few days and with the right support, the body can often get an infection under control.  I will often give my patients a treatment plan to begin along with an antibiotic prescription that can be used in a few days if absolutely necessary.  And if you need to take an antibiotic, take a high potency probiotic along with it.  Your gut and immune system will thank you.