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The antibiotics They are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. They have been one of the greatest advances in medicine and their proper use has saved many lives. The key is precisely in those two words that may have gone unnoticed when mentioning the lives saved: 'proper use'.
So when is it appropriate to give an antibiotic to a child? Only when it comes to a bacterial infection?
The early symptoms of infections are similar for viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. These can be: fever, general malaise, vomiting, mucus, headache, cough or diarrhea, among others. When the time of evolution is short, it is difficult to refine the diagnosis. It can be a simple cold, caused by viruses, or the beginning of otitis or pneumonia, caused by bacteria. It seems logical then to start with an antibiotic, lest it be a bacterial infection in the end. And it is sensible reasoning, but not entirely correct.
First of all, it is important to know that more than 90% of infections in children are viral. Therefore, antibiotics will not help in these cases. These infections will present with a fever for approximately 1-5 days. When the fever lasts a short time, there are usually no problems, but when it lasts, parents begin to demand the antibiotic from their pediatricians. The child who runs, plays and jumps in the emergency room is a classic, while his parents swear and perjure that at home he had a high fever and was fatal. That is a virus, and you have to reassure with words, not with recipes. Unfortunately, many pediatricians end up giving in to family pressure and prescribing the desired antibiotic.
Magically, after the first intake of the expected medicine, the jumping patient runs out of fever and everyone is happy. Hence the great phrase: 'I already told the doctor that until they give him the antibiotic he is not cured ...'. Curious magical effect, considering that drugs must reach a dose in the body to begin to be effective and the improvement is never immediate. Could it be that the viral infection was very close to being cured?
But why this effort to reserve antibiotics? Why is it so difficult that they now prescribe one for us? What do pediatricians gain by guarding such unique treasures so carefully? The answer is very simple: the unnecessary use of antibiotics leads to the development of resistance by bacteria. That is, if we don't use them well, they won't heal tomorrow.
For many years, the use of antibiotics was not adequately controlled. Doctors prescribed them at the first symptom without waiting for the evolution of the disease, and even in pharmacies they could be obtained without a prescription. Hence the other great phrase: 'Before you coughed and they were already giving you the antibiotic. Now you have to be dying to get one ... '. However, thanks to those years, Spain today has the dubious honor of being one of the countries with the highest rates of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Yeah, so what? Well, make more! New and more powerful! Well, the fact is that it is not so simple. There are few, and the new ones don't come that fast. In fact, there are already some infections for which there is no effective antibiotic. That is why they are treasures. That is why they are valuable weapons that we must take care of together. Because each antibiotic that we save is a new therapeutic option for the future.
In summary, listen to your pediatricians. Do not demand treatment from them, demand words. Do not be silent with a syrup, ask how your child is and when you should check back. And when you are prescribed an antibiotic, follow the guidelines, dosages, and treatment days. Think of the incalculable value of the medicine you have in your hands and pamper it, so that tomorrow you can continue to save lives.
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