Antibiotic overuse for kids with winter ailments: more harm than good

18 Jul 2016
​The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, as part of the Choosing Wisely Australia® initiative, is encouraging patients to engage in an active discussion with their GP around the appropriate prescribing of antibiotics for middle ear infections (otitis media). For the vast majority of children an antibiotic will not be required.
There are specific clinical indicators for the use of antibiotics especially amongst certain paediatric patient groups. As well, increasing antibiotic resistance is a critical issue for our population. Antibiotic use should depend on careful clinical assessment.
Middle ear infection affects more than 500,000 (one in ten) children in Australia each year.
“GPs understand the deep concern parents feel when their child is unwell or in pain,” RACGP President Dr Frank R Jones said. “No parent—and no doctor—wants to see a child in pain. The best way to manage the pain associated with an ear infection is by giving simple analgesics (like paracetamol), carefully adhering to dosage guidelines according to body weight. Antibiotics will have no effect on easing pain and may in fact have unwarranted side effects like diarrhoea.
“Parents and carers should have a conversation with their GP around the most appropriate treatment for their child, which in all probability will not be an antibiotic prescription."
The RACGP recommends that antibiotics should not be routinely used in children with ear infection between two and 12 years of age. Most ear infections clear up within a couple of days.
“Your family doctor is the best source of information on treatment and if the symptoms last more than a couple of days. If the child shows signs of more severe infection, for example increased lethargy, or if the child is under two years or of Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander origin, your GP is your first point of call,’ Dr Jones said.
NPS MedicineWise facilitates Choosing Wisely Australia®, an initiative that aims to spark important conversations in Australia on unnecessary care to ensure that healthcare resources are being used most effectively.
“Using antibiotics when you don’t need them can contribute to bacterial resistance, both in the individual and the community,” Dr Lynn Weekes, NPS MedicineWise CEO said.
“The more antibiotics we use, the more chances bacteria have to become resistant to them and as a result they will lose their power.”
More information on the RACGP’s recommendations on antibiotic use for children is available here.
Choosing Wisely Australia recommends five questions you should ask your healthcare provider before any test.

Last reviewed 18 July 2016