New Delhi: As a parent, it is difficult to see your child under the weather. You try all possible ways to relieve them from the pain and discomfort. Majority of parents head straight to the doctor, where kids are prescribed antibiotics. For the uninitiated, giving antibiotics for cold and flu makes you child prone to long-term problems and weakens the immune system. Let’s discuss in details why children should not be given antibiotics for cold and flu.
How do antibiotics work?
Kids of every age get their share of cold, sore throat and viruses. As a parent, we go the doctor, half expecting that our child will be prescribed an antibiotic – which a lot of us consider mandatory to fight such infections. But mind you! If you are stuck with a doctor who prescribes antibiotics for all cold and flu related issues, he is putting your child’s health at risk.
Though antibiotics help to a great extent and are also essential in some cases but not in regular cases of cold and flu. The two types of germs that can make you sick are virus and bacteria. Both of these may have similar symptoms but the way they multiply and spread illness is different.
Bacteria: There are so many bacteria that are already present in our body and are helpful for us. But some bacteria invade our body and hinder the normal functioning of the body. Antibiotics kill these bacteria and stop their reproduction.
Virus: Viruses are not alive and cannot live on their own. They exist in the body only when they invade other living cells. These are particles containing genetic material wrapped in a protein coat.
The body’s immune system can fight them even before they cause any illness but some take their own time like for example the cold virus. And antibiotics do not work on them.
Problems caused by antibiotics
Antibiotics can cause problems like allergic reactions, side effects and antibiotic resistance. Let’s know about each of them in detail.
Allergic reaction: 5 out of 100 children are allergic to antibiotics. They may develop swollen, itchy and red welts. You should immediately consult your doctor if the child develops any rashes over the course of taking antibiotics.
Other side effects: 1 in 10 children may experience side effects like nausea, vomiting, stomach ache and diarrhoea on consumption of antibiotic. As along with killing the bad bacteria, antibiotics also kill the good bacteria which can lead to such problems.
Antibiotic-resistant: If antibiotics are used over the course of years, they become ineffective in killing some bacteria, making the child antibiotic resistant. In some such cases, stronger antibiotics are given to treat the problem. This is one of the main reasons why doctors have become wary of prescribing antibiotics until really required.
When your child really needs antibiotic?
We are not trying to say that antibiotics are bad and should be avoided at all costs. They are necessary in some cases and can also save lives. There are some cases when children need antibiotics – symptoms include, a cough that lasts for more than 14 days, bacterial pneumonia or a whopping cough, high fever with greenish yellow nasal discharge, diagnoses with a strep throat, ear infections, UTI and bladder infection.
Children taking antibiotics must be careful with their diet
Antibiotics kill the bacteria that causes infection but along with that, it also kills the good microbes that the body needs to absorb key nutrients including Vitamin K and B Vitamins. Doctors say it is important to get back the lost nutrients either through multivitamins or nutrient-rich food.
To get the maximum benefit, make sure your child consumes the full dosage of the prescribed antibiotic.
Home remedies for cold and flu
Mustard oil with garlic cloves: Heat the mustard oil (do not boil), add 2-3 garlic cloves and ajawain. Rub this on your child’s feet, back and chest.
Ginger and honey juice: Grate some ginger and take out its juice. Mix the juice with honey and give it to your child.
Keep the room cosy: Use humidifiers to keep the room’s air moist which will break up nasal and chest congestion.
Give them extra fluids: Make them drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. It also thins nasal secretion and flushes them out.
Tips to lower your child’s antibiotic prescriptions
– Give them a wholesome nutrient-rich diet.
– Get them in the habit of washing their hands after they come from school, play and before eating any meal.
– Give them nutrition supplements (consult a doctor)
– Support their gut health by giving them fermented food and fermented fibre.