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Practice Tips: Physician Information Sheet (Pediatrics)

Careful Antibiotic Use

Make promoting appropriate antibiotic use part of your routine clinical practice

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Practice Tips

When parents ask for antibiotics to treat viral infections:

  • Explain that unnecessary antibiotics can be harmful.
    • Tell parents that based on the latest evidence, unnecessary antibiotics CAN be harmful, by promoting resistant organisms in their child and the community.
  • Share the facts.
    • Explain that bacterial infections can be cured by antibiotics, but viral infections never are.
    • Explain that treating viral infections with antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections does not work.
  • Build cooperation and trust.
    • Convey a sense of partnership and don’t dismiss the illness as “only a viral infection”.
  • Encourage active management of the illness.
    • Explicitly plan treatment of symptoms with parents. Describe the expected normal time course of the illness and tell parents to come back if the symptoms persist or worsen.
  • Be confident with the recommendation to use alternative treatments.
    • Prescribe analgesics and decongestants, if appropriate.
    • Emphasize the importance of adequate nutrition and hydration.
    • Consider providing “care packages” with nonantibiotic therapies.
    • Create an office environment to promote the reduction in antibiotic use.
  • Talk about antibiotic use at 4 and 12 month well child visits.

    Doctor discussing anitbiotic use with a mother and her child.
    The AAP Guidelines for Health Supervision III
    (1997) now include counseling on antibiotic
    use as an integral part of well-child care.

  • Start the educational process in the waiting room.
  • Involve office personnel in the educational process.
    • Reenforcement of provider messages by office staff can be a powerful adjunct to change patient attitudes.
  • Use the CDC/AAP pamphlets and principles to support your treatment decisions.
    • Provide information to help parents understand when the risks of using antibiotics outweigh the benefits.

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