Giving too many antibiotics to children makes them resistant to their effects. Here are some tips to manage antibiotic resistance in children.

Whenever children get sick, one of the first reactions of parents is to give treat their illness with antibiotics. However, this has led to a reduction in its effectiveness. The hidden danger of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), often called the silent pandemic, is a significant emerging threat to global health. Currently, there’s a concerning rise in infections resistant to treatment, especially among newborns and children. India tops global human antibiotic consumption, standing at 10.7 units per person, a major contributor to antimicrobial resistance. Overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics, taking antibiotics without a prescription, lack of awareness, and limited use of diagnostic tests, all worsen India’s antimicrobial resistance issue. Antibiotic resistance in children is an even bigger concern.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve to resist the effects of medications designed to kill or inhibit their growth. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics contribute to the acceleration of this process. In children, who are often vulnerable to infections, the implications of antibiotic resistance are
particularly worrisome.

Taking too many antibiotics can make you resistant to it. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Several issues related to pediatric healthcare have been identified, including the insufficient development of antibiotic drugs specifically designed for children, a limited number of clinical studies focusing on pediatric populations, and, consequently, a lack of pediatric-specific data. Additionally, there is a restricted range of drug options available to treat multidrug-resistant (MDR) pediatric infections. The issue of misusing or overusing antibiotics in pediatric care is also recognized as a concern.

What are the causes of rising antibiotic resistance in children?

1. Inappropriate use of antibiotics

Antibiotics are frequently prescribed for viral infections, against which they are ineffective. The misuse of antibiotics for conditions like the common cold or flu contributes to the development of resistance.

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2. Incomplete courses of antibiotics

Not completing a prescribed antibiotic course allows some bacteria to survive and develop resistance. Parents may cease treatment once a child’s symptoms improve, unaware of the importance of completing the full course.

3. Excessive use in agriculture

Antibiotics are widely used in livestock for growth promotion and disease prevention. The transfer of resistant bacteria from animals to humans through food consumption is a significant factor in antibiotic resistance.

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4. Lack of antibiotic alternatives

Limited research and development of new antibiotics contribute to a lack of effective alternatives. This scarcity forces healthcare providers to rely on existing antibiotics, fostering resistance.

How to manage antibiotic resistance in children?

1. Right antibiotic guidance

Implementing antibiotic stewardship programs in healthcare settings involves educating healthcare providers, parents, and caregivers about the appropriate use of antibiotics. This includes avoiding unnecessary prescriptions for viral infections.

2. Public awareness campaigns

Raising awareness among parents and caregivers about the consequences of antibiotic overuse is crucial. Informing them about the difference between viral and bacterial infections helps in discouraging the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

3. Enhanced surveillance

Strengthening surveillance systems to monitor antibiotic use and resistance patterns provides valuable data for public health interventions. Identifying trends helps in tailoring strategies to specific regions or populations.

4. Research and development

Encouraging research and development in the field of antibiotics is essential. Investing in the discovery of new drugs and alternative therapies can help combat resistance and ensure a robust arsenal of treatments.

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5. Hygiene and infection prevention

Promoting cleanliness and sanitation, including improved access to clean water and effective handwashing practices, is crucial in reducing infections. Emphasizing hygiene significantly lowers infection rates and counters the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

kid washing hands
Proper hygiene is important to fight off diseases! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What should parents and caregivers do?

Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in effectively managing antibiotic resistance in children. It is imperative for them to educate themselves by understanding the proper use of antibiotics and the significance of completing prescribed courses.

Seeking professional advice is essential—consulting healthcare providers for accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations while avoiding self-prescribing or requesting antibiotics for viral infections. Additionally, promoting good hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing, becomes a proactive measure to reduce the risk of infections and, subsequently, the need for antibiotics.

Rising antibiotic resistance in children is a complex issue that demands a multifaceted approach. By addressing the root causes and promoting responsible antibiotics we can take steps to ensure a healthier future for our children.

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