Antibiotics are the very definition of a double-edged sword. With each and every use, antibiotic resistance is increased, so that both doctors and patients need to make 100% that each and every use counts. In spite of that, many children are given antibiotics for common cold symptoms, which is tantamount to increasing antibiotic resistance just for the hell of it. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, doctors prescribe antibiotics for virus symptoms, as opposed to those caused by bacteria, which is what antibiotics are actually meant for.
In light of this, pediatricians are beseeched not to automatically administer antibiotics to children with ear infections, runny noses and sore throats, without first establishing that these symptoms are indeed cause by a bacterial infection. Viruses and bacteria may provoke similar symptoms, but antibiotics shouldn’t be prescribed ‘just in case’ bacteria may be behind the symptoms. The CDC says that 2 million Americans get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, 23,000 of which die as a result. In other words, it is a matter of life and death, literally.
Even when antibiotic use is warranted, side effects include diarrhea, rash, and allergic reactions. It would be downright cruel to make a child experience those adverse effects for nothing. Therefore, it is very important to make a distinction between virus and bacterial symptoms. For example, doctors should check for swollen lymph nodes or tonsils and a fever in order to determine whether a sore throat is caused by strep throat. Runny noses and coughs have to be very severe and/or persistent before they are deemed antibiotic-worthy. Otherwise, all doctors, children and parents can do is wait for the virus to go away on its own.