Cough Season

We all want to help a coughing child. But a big difference looms between what should happen and what does happen when kids have bronchitis and other cough illnesses. Even though overall antibiotic use is dropping, there is a glaring exception. More than 60 percent of kids diagnosed with bronchitis leave the doctor’s office, clinic, or emergency room with a prescription for antibiotics, according to data published in the September 2003 Pediatrics.

This continues even though the CDC has stated that antibiotics often do more harm than good for bronchitis and other cough illnesses. Regardless of how long they last, bronchitis and nonspecific cough illnesses in children rarely warrant antibiotics.

Occasionally, if the cough has lasted for more than 10 days and specific bacteria are suspected, one round of antibiotics may be worthwhile. Children with underlying lung disease (not including asthma) might also benefit from antibiotics when their diseases flare up.

We’ve done a good job reducing unhelpful antibiotic use in many other areas, I hope this cough season we do it here as well.

Published on: September 11, 2003
About the Author
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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