Good Intentions, opposite Effect?

It's human nature. When your children are sick, you want to do everything possible to make them better, and that often means a trip to the pediatrician for a prescription. But what if your good intentions are having the opposite effect? All too often parents head to the doctor at the first sign of a sneeze or sniffle, resulting in about 30 million antibiotic prescriptions for children every year, according to researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine.

What many parents don't understand, however, is that while antibiotics can often help overcome infection, they specifically target bacteria-not viral infections. This is particularly important, since the majority of common colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis, runny noses and sore throats (with the exception of strep) are viral, and thus impervious to antibiotic treatment.

Repeated Antibiotic Use

According to the Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work campaign developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), taking antibiotics for viruses such as colds, flu and most cases of bronchitis will not cure the infection, nor will they help your child feel better or keep other individuals from catching the illness. Over time, warns the CDC, repeated antibiotic use can actually lead to antibiotic resistance, which can "…cause significant danger and suffering for people who have common infections that were once easily treatable with antibiotics". Further, although the main purpose of antibiotics is to kill harmful bacteria, they often kill the existing beneficial bacteria as well, which can result in diarrhea and other intestinal issues.

Try a Different Booster: Probiotic Supplements & Probiotic Support Foods

Rather than relying on antibiotic treatment as the first line of defense, many experts recommend taking a daily probiotic supplement to promote digestive health and boost the immune system. Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain live microorganisms (bacteria or yeast) that support a healthy balance of intestinal flora (roughly 80% good to 20% bad bacteria), which in turn supports the overall health of the body. Because the overuse or misuse of antibiotics can allow yeast to proliferate in the body and alter that healthy balance, probiotic support is especially important during and after a course of antibiotics.

In her book, Digestive Wellness for Children, Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D, C.C.N writes, "In a recent study of children aged one to six years with acute infections and taking antibiotics, those also given probiotic supplements recovered somewhat faster, were able to eat better, and had increased weight gain." Lipski goes on to say that, "In older children, probiotics help prevent symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and constipation; reduce intestinal inflammation; enhance growth; and generally make the child's health heartier."

During illness, children should also get plenty of rest and fluids to help speed the body's natural healing process. Sprays and lozenges may be used to help relieve nasal congestion and soothe a sore throat, and cool mist vaporizers and natural chest rubs may also help ease congestion.