Antibiotics or antimicrobial drugs have long been known to treat various infections. Some parents may instinctively give antibiotics, to treat even common colds or flu in children. In this particular case, antibiotics may not at all be helpful. In turn, it may even be harmful because it can lead to antibiotic-resistant germs.

The two major types of germs causing illnesses in humans are bacteria and viruses. While both types of germs may cause similar symptoms, the ways these organisms reproduce, and spread illness are not at all alike. Bacteria can be found everywhere, and not all strains of bacteria can cause illness. For bacteria to cause illness in humans, it has to invade the human body, multiply and impede normal processes. Antibiotics work by stopping the growth and reproduction of bacteria. Thus, it is very effective in killing these living organisms.

Viruses on the other hand are not capable of existing on their own. They depend on other living cells to grow and reproduce. Some viruses can even be fought off by the immune system, before it can cause an illness. Viral infections like the common cold, do not respond to antibiotics, and it simply needs to run its course.

Common illnesses caused by bacteria are severe sinus infections, strep throat, urinary tract infections, some ear infections, and many wound and skin infections. The common viral infections are colds, flu, bronchitis, and stomach flu. Many ear infections, coughs and sore throats are also caused by a virus.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics may help create resistant bacteria after some time. These superbugs or resistant bacteria, may only respond to stronger antibiotics with higher doses. Even more alarming, doctors have found bacteria, which are already resistant to even the most potent antimicrobial drugs available today. With the emergence of these superbugs, it has made treatment harder for many kinds of infections.

In order to prevent bacterial resistance in children, parents should never give antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription. If your child is showing symptoms of an infection, do not attempt to give medication, without the approval of your doctor. It is vital that the cause of the infection is identified, so that proper treatment can be started. If your health care provider does not prescribe any antibiotic, do not try to pressure him, but instead ask ways on how to ease the symptoms of the infection.

If an antibiotic is needed for the treatment of the infection, make sure that you give the medication exactly as ordered. Your child should finish the full course of treatment, even if he seems to feel better. A shortened course of treatment may only kill the most vulnerable bacteria, leaving behind resistant bacteria to survive and possibly re-infect. Discard any leftover medication because you may be tempted to use it the next time your child gets sick.

Keeping your family healthy is a good way in preventing the spread of infections. Practice proper hand washing, and make sure that your children are up to date with their vaccinations. And the next time anybody in your family gets sick, never attempt to offer any antibiotic without even consulting a doctor. After all, responsible antibiotic use is one way of protecting your family, and everyone else for that matter, from antibiotic resistant bacteria.