Magazine article Newsweek International

Antibiotic Alternatives

Magazine article Newsweek International

Antibiotic Alternatives

Article excerpt

Parents know the scene well: your child howls all night long with a sore throat, an earache or a bad cough. You wake tired and grumbly and call the doctor demanding relief--perhaps more for you than your child. The doctor is under pressure to prescribe a cure and delivers a prescription for an antibiotic. A few days later your child is feeling better. Was it the antibiotic or did the malady simply run its course?

Antibiotics do save lives, but common ailments like a runny nose, coughs and some earaches mend better under the "watch and wait" method- -usually settling down with no intervention, according to a recent Scandinavian study published in Pediatrics magazine. "Antibiotics do not help most children," doctors Keith Sehnert and Lendon Smith write, and "family doctors should often wait for 24 to 48 hours before prescribing them."

Overuse of antibiotics is rampant, according to the World Health Organization. Some studies show that more than 70 percent of ailments for which antibiotics are prescribed are viral in nature; meaning an antibiotic treatment does little good. The WHO has long warned that overuse of antibiotics is likely to breed superbugs that will then prove resistant to available medicines. Such overuse can also cause recurrent infections, and recent studies show that it's detrimental to one's overall health, given that the antibiotics destroy so-called good bacteria along with the bad.

The Belgians are leading a Europewide move to stop misuse and abuse of antibiotics. Just over a year ago they launched a national campaign to inform doctors and parents on the dangers of overuse. In the first 12 months they noted a 6 percent drop in prescriptions.

What To Do?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued easy-to-follow guidelines. …

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