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Delaying Antibiotics for Children Reduces Overuse and Stomach Problems: Study

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The findings of a new study suggest there may be benefits from delaying prescription of antibiotics for children suffering from typical respiratory infections, potentially helping to reduce the risk of stomach problems and issues associated with antibiotic overuse which may lead to the emergence of “superbug” infections.

The proliferation of antibiotic-resident infections has become a major concern in recent years, as these “superbugs” have become increasingly more difficult to treat without effective medications. Overuse of antibiotics is the primary cause of these antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can persists even after multiple rounds of treatment with available antibiotics.

In a study published in the March issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers indicate delaying the use of antibiotics among pediatric patients may help reduce overuse and lessen the likelihood of children suffering gastrointestinal issues from the medications.

Spanish researchers assessed the effectiveness and safety of delayed antibiotic prescription, compared to immediate antibiotic prescription and no antibiotic prescription in children with uncomplicated respiratory infections.

They conducted a randomized clinical trial comparing three antibiotic prescription strategies: delayed, immediate, and no antibiotic prescription.

The study included children with acute uncomplicated respiratory infections who were treated at 39 primary care centers. Children were randomly assigned into prescription groups: delayed antibiotic prescription, immediate antibiotic prescription, and no antibiotic prescription.

A total of 436 children were included in the study. The average duration of severe symptoms was 10 days for immediate prescription, 11 for no prescription, and 12 days for delayed prescription. Researchers said the difference was not statistically significant.

The occurrence of complications, additional visits to a primary care doctor, and satisfaction levels were similar for all three groups.

Similarly, the average severity of symptoms was similar for all three groups. Researchers also noted, gastrointestinal side effects, such as stomach aches or stomach upset, were higher for the immediate use group.

Antibiotic use was higher among the immediate use group compared to delayed use group or the group that received no antibiotics. Using fewer antibiotics can help reduce the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which has become a serious problem in recent years.

“There was no statistically significant difference in symptom duration or severity in children with uncomplicated respiratory infections who received delayed antibiotic prescriptions compared to no antibiotics prescriptions or immediate antibiotic prescription strategies; however, delayed antibiotic prescriptions reduced antibiotic use and gastrointestinal adverse effects,” wrote study authors.

Research published last year found children have an increased risk of suffering from colitis or inflammatory bowel disease when given several rounds of antibiotics. These side effects persisted even among children who took short courses of antibiotics.

Despite education regarding safe use of antibiotics, one-third of older Americans still do not understand when antibiotics should be used. Additionally, antibiotics are still prescribed by doctors 45% of the time for no good reason and used to treat conditions that are not affected by antibiotics, such as viral infections. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, borne largely from the overuse of antibiotics, leads to more than 35,000 deaths in the United States every year.

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