We are in the throes of “sick season”: children with colds, ear infections, flu-like illness, pneumonia and, of course, the actual flu.
The drugstores are busy with families coming in to fill prescriptions and also to shop for over-the-counter medications to help alleviate all the yucky symptoms that come with this season.
It can get confusing with so many medications, so it’s important to clarify information about dosing and indications for the use of a particular medication.
The most common reason that a young child needs antibiotics is for an ear infection. But many of the regular-season illnesses that bring sick children to the doctor’s office do not require antibiotics. Most children have at least eight to 10 colds in their first two years alone. The good news is that these colds are usually self-limited and will go away with supportive non-antibiotic care.
It is good news when your child doesn’t need antibiotics but at the time, gosh- every parent just wants something to make their child better sooner rather than later. Parents then often ask about over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Generally, we do not recommend cold medications for young children. The use of cold medications has been clearly associated with adverse effects, including life-threatening ones, and such meds do not really work in this age group.
After non-prescription products for colds in infants were voluntarily withdrawn in 2007, the number of emergency-department visits due to adverse events from cough and cold medicines declined substantially among children younger than 2 years old. Be sure to check very carefully that all OTC medicines — including those for comfort and fever reduction and herbal remedies — are safe and also recommended for your child. Simply call your doctor to confirm what you should and cannot give your child.
I think most parents understand why antibiotics are not given for many of the illness that ail their children. Much decision-making occurs when prescribing an antibiotic. Many times, an illness that initially presents as not needing an antibiotic can evolve or devolve to the state of requiring antibiotics. Doctors call it the “tincture of time” and close surveillance that is needed.
Always clarify with your doctors the factors to watch for in your child. If these instructions are not clear, let your doctor know. The ownership is on us to explain our advice to you. Taking care of your child is a team approach and we hope that our advice is clear enough to you that our care extends beyond the office walls as you take care of your child in your home.
So whether your child’s illness requires an antibiotic or not, know that we take all of the season’s ailments seriously and really do feel bad for the sniffles, coughs, fever and aches. We are a phone call or visit away to help you take care of them in the very best way. And finally – it is not too late to get that flu vaccine.
Is it “sick season” at your house?