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Antibiotic Resistance: You and Your Child

What is the difference between bacteria and viruses?

  • "Bugs" come in many forms. The 2 most common forms are bacteria and viruses.
  • Bacteria and viruses can both cause infections.
  • The most common infections are caused by viruses.
  • Antibiotics kill bacteria, but not viruses.
  • Many bacteria are not harmful. In fact some are actually helpful.
  • Common viral infections such as head colds, the flu, some ear infections, sore throats, chest colds, and bronchitis will not be prevented or cured using antibiotics.

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What are antibiotics?

  • Antibiotics are prescription drugs that attack bacteria.
  • They kill or disable disease-causing bacteria.

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What is antibiotic resistance?

  • Antibiotics are often misused to treat infections caused by viruses. This can lead to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
  • Antibiotics kill bacteria; even the good bacteria that help your body fight off harmful bacteria.
  • When you use antibiotics when they are not needed, you teach bacteria how to fight back against antibiotics or become resistant.
  • The frequent and needless use of antibiotics to treat viral illnesses has increased the number of antibiotic resistant bacteria around the world.
  • These resistant bacteria can cause serious diseases that may be difficult or impossible to treat.

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What are the common illnesses among children?

  • Children frequently have 10 or more colds per year.
  • Ear infections and fever are also very common. Most fevers and earaches in children are caused by infections that are minor and usually cure themselves. Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when they are certain they will help.

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What kinds of infections are caused by viruses and should not be treated with antibiotics?

  • All colds
  • Influenza (The Flu)
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Many sore throats (except for those resulting from strep throat)
  • Some ear infections

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When should I see a doctor?

See your doctor if:

  • The illness lasts longer than a week.
  • Breathing is difficult.
  • Symptoms get worse instead of better.
  • A fever is higher than 39°C (102°F).
  • Sinus pain, earache or toothache develops.
  • A cough gets worse instead of better.

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What else can I do?

  • Handwashing  is the best way to stop the spread of infection.
  • Teach children to use soap and water to wash their hands – backs, fronts and between fingers.
  • Regular soap is all that is needed.
  • Stay home if you have a respiratory illness. Do not send your ill child to school to share the germs.
  • Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about your family's illness. They will provide the best treatment advice.
  • Use antibiotics only if necessary.
  • Don’t ask for an antibiotic for every illness. Many illnesses are caused by a virus and antibiotics do not work on viruses.
  • You may have to have a swab or an X-ray to be sure that an antibiotic is needed.
  • Take an antibiotic exactly as the doctor tells you. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment, even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect or become resistant.
  • If the doctor tells you to stop the antibiotic before it is all taken, return the remainder to the pharmacy for safe disposal.
  • Never share antibiotics or save them for later use.
  • Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. It may not be right for your illness. Taking the wrong antibiotic may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.
  • Make sure that recommended immunizations are up-to-date for your whole family.

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