During the first few years of life, almost all children will have at least one infection caused by bacteria. Bacteria usually infect the ears, sinuses, or throat. Sometimes bacteria can cause more serious illnesses by infecting the lungs (pneumonia) or the lining of the brain (meningitis). For over fifty years we have had a group of medicines to treat these infections— antibiotics. But now, by resisting the killing effects of antibiotics, many bacteria are fighting back. Children infected with bacteria that resist antibiotics (sometimes called [superbugs]) often need to be treated longer and with more expensive antibiotics—sometimes these children need to be hospitalized to receive antibiotics intravenously. Worse, every year in the United States children die from bacteria that are resistant to all known antibiotics. Although antibiotics were first used only fifty years ago, we have already taken our first steps into an era where antibiotics may be useless.
How could this happen? The reason that some bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics is that antibiotics are overused. Children are the most common victims of this overuse. Of the roughly 145 million antibiotic prescriptions written every year, most are written for young children. The result is that young children are more likely to be infected by highly resistant bacteria than any other group.
Antibiotics are overused because often they are given to children with viral infections (such as colds, bronchitis, and sore throat)—even though they don't help these children get better faster. And children are infected by viruses/яг more commonly than they are by bacteria. For example, although about ten of 100 children with fever are infected by bacteria, sixty will be given an antibiotic. There are a number of explanations for this. Doctors may feel that parents are more likely to be satisfied if they are given a prescription for an antibiotic. Or parents