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This one is about: Antibiotics 101
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by Carol Edson RN
For parents of children with clefts, ear and other infections can be a major concern. Both the appropriate antibiotic, and its correct administration are necessary for maximum benefit. What do antibiotics do? What can't they do? What are the risks? Let's tackle these questions in the form of a layman's primer.
Q. How does the doctor choose the right antibiotic?
A. There are guidelines for what drug to use for certain conditions, such as ear infections. The first "drug of choice" would be used unless there was a reason not to (allergy, intolerance, etc.) In that case, one farther down the recommended list would be substituted.
Q. What if the antibiotic does not make my child feel better in a few days?
A. ALWAYS talk to the doctor who prescribed the antibiotic before stopping it. More time may be needed, or the physician may elect to change to a different drug.
Q. Why must my child take all the antibiotic?
A. To be effective without risking relapse, the prescription should be finished completely. The doses should be timed as ordered: every six, eight or twelve hours for most antibiotics. The other problem with not finishing the entire amount prescribed is that this inadequate dose helps the bacteria become resistant to that drug. This is a serious problem. We now have bugs that are so hard to kill that expensive, high-risk antibiotics must be used to kill them - and they even don't always work!
Q. What are the some of the risks of antibiotics?
A. Common side effects include rashes, stomach upset, diarrhea. True allergy does occasionally occur, and can be serious. If your child develops itching, wheezing, swelling (especially of the face) or other alarming symptoms, contact your physician and have your child seen right away.
Q. What are the risks of NOT using antibiotics?
A. Infections that are caused by bacteria can best be treated when they are localized to one area, such as the ear. Untreated infections can spread to distant places and raise havoc. Strep, for example, if untreated, can lead to kidney or heart damage.
To sum: Ideally, antibiotics are safe, effective, inexpensive, stable substances that travel well within the body, don't cause allergic reactions and don't affect one's normal flora. In PRACTICE, no perfect antibiotic exists. As parents, we need to be informed about these issues so we can monitor our children wisely.
---------------------------------------Carol Edson, RN, is the mother of a cleft-affected child. She is also the Nurse Consultant for WIDE SMILES Magazine.