When your little one has an ear infection or a bad cold and is crying half the night, all you want is a magic pill to make it better, but sometimes no pill is the best choice.
We've been advising parents for a long time not to automatically give their kids antibiotics for ear infections, the flu and bronchitis (all of which are usually caused by viruses). Antibiotics are designed to knock out bacterial infections, not viruses. And yet more than 50 million unnecessary and ineffective prescriptions for antibiotics are written to “treat” common viral infections every year in North America. And misuse only worsens the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Don't get us wrong. These antibiotics are wonder drugs and millions of lives are saved every year, because they KO infections. But be wise about using them: Giving kids common antibiotics -- such as streptomycin and vancomycin -- may eradicate good gut bacteria in their developing intestines; this, in turn, may damage their immune systems. The result? Researchers think the ever-increasing use of antibiotics may be what's causing the number of cases of allergic asthma to skyrocket -- there's been around a 50 percent increase in the past decade. Now it's estimated that 9 million kids in North America have this respiratory disease.
So when your child comes down with a cold, flu or other upper-respiratory illness, ask the doc if antibiotics are really the best solution. Sometimes less is more.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.