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How to Talk With Your Child’s Pediatrician about Antibiotics

Fever. Fussiness. Tugging at the ears. Many parents can easily ID the telltale signs that their child has an ear infection. All you have to do is call the pediatrician for an antibiotic, and your kid will soon be on the road to recovery, right? Not exactly.

Often, illnesses such as bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections get better without treatment. However, research shows that many parents are hesitant to wait to give an antibiotic. Communicating openly with your health care provider about antibiotics can help you better understand when they’re necessary and when they’re not. Here are three important questions that can help guide your conversation.

1. Why Should I Wait to Give an Antibiotic?

Many infections improve on their own. Waiting two to three days after your doctor diagnoses an infection gives you time to see if this will happen. If it gets better, you’ll avoid giving your child unnecessary antibiotics. This is a good thing. While antibiotics can be helpful when they’re needed, there are major risks to taking them. These include:

  • Allergic reactions

  • Severe diarrhea

  • Increased chance of antibiotic-resistant infection

2. What Can I Do In The Meantime to Help My Child Feel Better?

Your child may not need an antibiotic, but there are still things you can do to help your child feel better. For example, ask your doctor which over-the-counter pain reliever may work best. Find out what dose to give your child and how often you should administer it. If your child has an ear infection, holding a warm, damp cloth over the painful ear may help. If your child has bronchitis, using a humidifier or breathing in steam from a hot shower may offer some relief.

3. How Will I Know If My Child Needs an Antibiotic?

If, after two to three days, your child’s symptoms don’t improve or they get worse, then an antibiotic may be necessary. Ask your doctor exactly what to watch for and how to know when to call.

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