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Health Services – Antibiotics

Use Antibiotics Wisely

Kids and Sore Throats

A sore throat can be caused by an infection due to a virus or bacteria. Most of the time, a sore throat is part of a viral illness like a cold. Less often, it can be due to a strep infection. Antibiotics can cure strep throat because it is a bacterial infection. However, antibiotics will not work for sore throats from colds or the flu. Here are signs of a strep throat. Sore throat, bright red tonsils, pus on the tonsils, fever, swollen glands in the neck. Sometimes kids can get a sandpaper-like rash. Kids with strep throat usually do not have other cold symptoms like runny nose and cough. Ask your doctor if your child needs a strep test before any antibiotics are prescribed for a sore throat. If your child is given an antibiotic for strep throat, make sure he takes all the medicine as directed- even after the sore throat gets better. Here is what to do when your child has a sore throat AND a runny nose or cough: He probably has a cold caused by a virus. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids to drink. Children age 8 and up can gargle with salt water. Mix ½ teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Acetaminophen (like Tylenol) may be used for fever. Contact the doctor if your child is not better within one week or if any signs listed below develop. Call the doctor if your child has a sore throat and develops any of these signs: Trouble breathing, drooling, or throat pain that keeps getting worse. Red or sore joints. A sandpaper-like rash. Pus on the tonsils. Ear pain. Remember, antibiotics can cure strep throat, but antibiotics won’t work for infections caused by viruses!

Kids and Ear Infections

Next to a cold, an ear infection is the most common childhood illness. In fact, most kids have at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. An ear infection develops when bacteria or a virus infects fluid in the middle ear (the inside part of the ear behind the eardrum). Sometimes kids with colds develop an ear infection. When your child has an ear infection, she may complain of ear pain or you may see drainage coming from her ear. Younger infants may simply be fussy or have a fever. Call your doctor if your child has an earache and any of these signs: Drainage from the ear. Swelling or redness around the ear. Dizziness. Trouble hearing. A fever. At the appointment, the doctor will look in your child’s ear to see if she has an ear infection. If there is one, then your doctor will explain what to do next. Treating the ear infection: An antibiotic may not be given right away if the ear infection is mild. But if the doctor prescribes an antibiotic, make sure your child takes all the medicine as directed – even if she begins to feel better and the pain is less after a few days. The doctor may suggest you try a dose of acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to relieve ear pain. Here’s some good news: Kids with ear infections do not need to stay home if they are feeling well. If they need to take an antibiotic at school or child daycare, make sure someone can give them their medication properly. What if fluid remains in the middle ear after an ear infection is treated? It is normal for fluid to stay in the middle ear right after an ear infection. This fluid usually clears up within 2 to 3 months. If fluid stays in the middle ear for more than three months, it may affect your child’s hearing. Your child may also have repeated ear infections. If your child has middle ear fluid present for a long time, ask your doctor if a hearing test is needed.

Kids and Colds

Many parents are surprised to find out their kids can catch 3 to 12 colds a year! The good news? Colds are caused by viruses and they go away “on their own.” Signs of the common cold can be: Stuffy, runny nose (the mucus from the nose can be clear or colored). Sore throat. Fever. Cough. Watery eyes. Feeling tired. How do I know if my child has a sinus infection? When your child has a cold, the sinuses around his nose may be stuffy and swollen. Sometimes the sinuses can get infected with bacteria. When this happens, your child has a sinus infection. Most sinus infections happen after your child has had a cold for at least 10 days. Signs of a sinus infection are: A constant runny nose that has not gotten better. Coughing during the day that often gets worse at night. Tenderness of the face. Headache. Call your doctor if your child has these signs. Your doctor will decide whether your child needs an antibiotic.