Learning About Wise Use of Antimicrobials in Children

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What are antimicrobials?

Antimicrobials are drugs used to kill microbes (germs). These germs include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. They can cause infections.

Each type of germ has a type of medicine that will kill or treat it. Examples include:

  • Antibiotics like amoxicillin for bacteria.
  • Tamiflu for viruses.
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan) for fungi.
  • Metronidazole for parasites.

Why shouldn't your child take them "just in case?"

Your child shouldn't take antimicrobials when he or she doesn't need them, or "just in case." These medicines have side effects that include vomiting, diarrhea, and yeast infections. And they may not work later when your child does need them.

Each time your child takes them, he or she is more likely to have some germs that aren't killed by the medicine. Germs that don't die can change and become even harder to kill. Some of these germs are so strong that they can't be killed by any medicine. These are called drug-resistant microbes. They can cause longer and more serious infections.

These tougher germs can spread to family members, friends, and classmates. To treat them, your child may need different, stronger medicines.

How can you give them to your child wisely?

Always ask your doctor if antimicrobials are the best treatment. Explain that you don't want your child to use these medicines unless they are needed.

If your child does need them, make sure to give them to your child as directed. If the label says to take the medicine at a certain time of day, follow those directions. Don't let your child stop taking them just because he or she feels better. Give your child the full course of medicine. This will help get rid of those germs that are a bit stronger and that survive the first few days of treatment. It will also help prevent the growth of drug-resistant germs.

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.

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.