Antibiotics for children: A comprehensive guide for parents

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 26 Oct 2023

There are occasions when antibiotics for our children will be the best option, however using children’s antibiotics when they are not necessary may actually be harmful. Understanding children’s antibiotics is important, as their effective and safe use can impact recovery. So, let’s understand the importance of antibiotics, delve into the common types prescribed, and address the common questions our patients have.

What are antibiotics and how do they work?

Antibiotics are a class of medications designed to treat bacterial infections. They have no effect on viruses (which are the cause of many common childhood illnesses). Antibiotics work by either killing bacteria outright (bactericidal) or inhibiting their growth (bacteriostatic), allowing the body’s immune system to overcome the infection.

Understanding the most common types of antibiotics prescribed to children

There are various types of antibiotics prescribed to children. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Amoxicillin: This is a commonly prescribed antibiotic for children. It is a type of penicillin that is used to treat various bacterial infections, such as ear infections, strep throat, and urinary tract infections.
  • Azithromycin: Azithromycin is often prescribed to children for respiratory infections like bronchitis, pneumonia, and certain ear and throat infections. It’s known for its convenient once-daily dosing.
  • Cephalexin (Keflex): Cephalexin is a cephalosporin antibiotic used to treat various bacterial infections, including skin and soft tissue infections, strep throat, and urinary tract infections.
  • Amoxicillin-Clavulanate (Augmentin): Augmentin is a combination antibiotic that includes amoxicillin and clavulanate. It is effective against a broader range of bacteria and is often prescribed for more serious infections like the middle ear, sinus, or urinary tract infections.

Common questions about antibiotics for children

If you require antibiotics for your children, you may have some questions. We hope to address the most common antibiotic questions below: 

1. When are antibiotics necessary for children?

Antibiotics are prescribed when your child has a bacterial infection. They are ineffective against viral infections. Your child’s doctor will determine the appropriate treatment.

2. Are antibiotics safe for children?

Antibiotics are generally safe for children when prescribed by a healthcare provider. Following the prescribed dosage and completing the full course is vital to ensure the infection is completely eradicated.

3. Are there side effects from giving antibiotics to children?

Taking antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor is usually safe. However, in some cases, they can have side effects, such as gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea and diarrhoea, allergies, or even antibiotic-resistant infections. You must monitor your child for any adverse effects and inform the healthcare provider if they occur.

4. Can antibiotics interact with other medications?

Some antibiotics can interact with other medications your child might be taking. Make sure to inform the healthcare provider about all medications and supplements your child is taking.

5. Are antibiotics used to treat sore throats? 

No. Most sore throats are actually caused by viruses. If your child has a sore throat, runny nose and a cough, it is most likely to be caused by a virus. Sometimes a doctor may test for “strep” throat which is an infection caused by bacteria. If this proves positive, antibiotics may be used. 

6. What should I do if my child misses a dose?

If your child misses a dose, just continue with the course as instructed. 

The importance of patient education in antibiotics use

In Singapore, there has been a rise in patients requesting antibiotics against the advice of their family physicians, according to a study that sampled over 3.2 million consultations at seven polyclinics. Using antibiotics too often or for the wrong reasons can potentially change the bacteria so much in the body that it makes antibiotics ineffective as a treatment. 

The children’s doctors at Osler Health medical clinic can guide you and support the correct treatment plan for your child here in Singapore.

Gain more insight into children’s health by learning about common childhood illnesses and when you should seek medical help for your child immediately.

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