Kids and antibiotics – your questions answered

Kids on their umpteenth round of antibiotics this winter? Here are two bits of great news – today is the last day of winter, and we’ve compiled the answers to some of the most common questions about kids and antibiotics. From antibiotic resistance, to knowing whether to proceed with immunisations when your child is sick – the answers are all here. 

Registered pharmacist Sarah Spagnardi fielded dozens of questions from the Babyology community recently, and the most common were about antibiotics and kids. Sarah manages the NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line – which is a federally-funded telephone service, aimed at providing independent, evidence-based information about medicines. Here are her answers to the most common questions asked during our live chat.

What is antibiotic resistance and how can it affect my family?

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change to protect themselves from an antibiotic. They are then no longer sensitive to that antibiotic. When this happens, antibiotics no longer work. You and your family can be affected because if you need an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, it may not work. Antibiotic resistance can be worsened by taking antibiotics when you don’t need them, not taking them as directed, or taking antibiotics for a condition they were not prescribed for.

Can you build antibiotic resistance from eating chicken or fish or red meat? Do they give antibiotics to animals and if so can this affect us?

There is a lot of work being done by the agricultural industry around the use of antibiotics in farming, and it is certainly an area of focus. Whether or not this might contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans is still being explored.

Why then do doctors hand out scripts (for antibiotics) so easily and all the time?

We are doing lots of work with doctors and other health professionals, as well as the public, to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance. It’s a shared responsibility between doctors and their patients, to consider whether an antibiotic is really required.

My four-month-old is due for his needles tomorrow. The past week he has been on antibiotics for his second ear infection. Is it safe to have the immunisations whilst he is still a little unwell and just today having finished his Amoxil? Our GP says if no fever it’s fine, I’m a little hesitant though. But on the other hand I don’t want him missing his much needed immunisation.

Your GP is right. Vaccinations won’t have an impact on his ear infection recovering, and the course of antibiotics he’s just finished won’t interfere with his vaccine.

My 13-month-old has had antibiotics prescribed for him at least six times in the last six months for various reasons (UTIs, tonsillitis, ear infections). Should I be worried about resistance for any particular antibiotic? 

Antibiotic resistance is most likely to occur when antibiotics are used to treat infections that are not bacterial, such as viruses. Where there are bacterial infections present, there is definitely a role for antibiotic treatment.

When administering a dose of antibiotics and my little one spits it out, should I give a full dose again or just wait till the next dose?

If you are fairly certain that all of the dose has been spat out, you can be sure that none, or very little has made its way to where it should be. If you’re not sure, it’s best to wait until the next dose. I know this is a hard one to manage, and your local pharmacist might be able to help with some tips on getting those antibiotics in. We don’t recommend mixing with other fluids, because if they are not swallowed, you won’t know how much of the antibiotic has been either.

My 19-month-old has just started his second course of antibiotics for an ear infection, but has developed gastro making it impossible for me to complete the course of antibiotics at the moment. Do you recommend restarting when the vomiting stops?

When your bub is well again, discuss this with the prescribing GP. It’s important to give the course as it was intended, and unavoidable interruption to that course might need a review.

If you have any questions, you can call the Medicines Line for information on prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines and complementary medicines on 1300 633 424. The service operates 9am-5pm Monday to Friday AEST. Calls from all states and territories except Queensland and Victoria are answered by a registered nurse from Healthdirect Australia.

(This is a sponsored post for NPS MedicineWise)

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