Antibiotics for Skin Conditions in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Antibiotics are medicines that kill bacteria. Bacteria can cause some skin problems or conditions. They can also lead to problems like acne and impetigo. There are many types of antibiotics. Each works a little differently and acts on different types of bacteria. Your doctor will decide which medicine will work best for your child.

You can put an antibiotic ointment or cream on your child's skin. Or your child can take pills by mouth to kill bacteria in the skin or pores.

This type of medicine is not used to treat skin problems that are caused by viruses or allergies. But sometimes bacteria get into a skin problem your child already has. Then your child may need antibiotics.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

To give antibiotics

  • If the doctor prescribed pills for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child's skin problem gets better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Apply ointment exactly as instructed.
  • Read the label to learn how to store this medicine.
  • Do not give your child antibiotics that were prescribed for a different illness or for someone else. This may make it take longer for your child to heal. And the skin problem may get worse.
  • Antibiotics sometimes cause diarrhea or yeast infections. Check with your doctor to see if it's okay for your child to take a probiotic or eat live-culture yogurt to avoid these problems. (With some antibiotics, your child will need to avoid eating dairy foods, including yogurt.)

To take care of your child's skin

  • Make sure your child does not scratch rashes or sores. Scratching may spread bacteria to other parts of the skin or body.
  • Clean your child's skin with mild soap and water 2 times a day unless your doctor gives you different instructions. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • Protect your child's skin from the sun. Have your child wear hats with wide brims, sunglasses, and loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing that covers the arms and legs. Make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply it several times a day.

What are the possible side effects?

Many children do not have side effects. But sometimes they have problems, such as:

  • Nausea, diarrhea, and belly pain.
  • Allergic reactions, such as a skin rash.
  • Vaginal yeast infections.

If the side effects bother your child, ask your doctor if there is another antibiotic that will work as well but will not cause these effects.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of an infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the affected area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You think your child may be having a problem with the medicine.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.