Antibiotic Use Dropping

Antibiotic use in children increased steadily through the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 1990’s, and dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria increased as well. Researchers at Harvard University looked at recent health plan data on 225,000 kids and found a welcome decrease in antibiotic use over the previous 5 years. Their results appear in the September 2003 Pediatrics. Awareness in both physicians and parents of the value of saving antibiotics for when they are necessary appears to have encouraged this trend.

My thanks to all in the family who helped to spread the word and who asked appropriate questions.

Interestingly, in the Harvard study, the prescription rates per diagnosis remained constant. What changed was the likelihood of calling an infection a viral infection (not needing antibiotics). In addition, physicians diagnosed fewer ear infections during this five-year period. More careful diagnosis appears to have led to more appropriate treatment.

When children need antibiotics, I favor giving them probiotics (active cultures of beneficial bacteria) as well to reduce side effects and to replenish this important line of defense.

Published on: September 09, 2003
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Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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