If your child has asthma, it may seem like a natural request to ask your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic. But a recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco showed that antibiotics may be overused for children who have asthma.
Asthma is a chronic condition that makes breathing difficult. During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways can become inflamed and swollen which limits the flow of air in and out of the lungs. This also produces excess mucus which can clog airways. At the same time, the muscles surrounding the airways can clamp down, making the air passages even smaller. Asthma symptoms include difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and coughing. A severe attack can prevent breathing and result in death.
Nearly 9 million children in the U.S. have asthma, making it the most common chronic condition among children. It is the leading condition that causes children to miss school and it sends more children to the hospital than any other childhood disease. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America)
The UCSF research team tracked doctor and hospital visits for over 5,000 children who were seen for asthma-related symptoms between 1998 and 2007. They determined that antibiotics were prescribed nearly one out of six times despite the fact that national health guidelines do not recommend antibiotics to treat asthma symptoms.
Of particular concern to the researchers was the possibility that children who are taking antibiotics when they don’t need them are more likely to develop resistance to that antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance is becoming a world-wide concern as more and more antibiotics are prescribed or used incorrectly. Antibiotics kill bacteria and are appropriate for use against bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not work to treat viral infections or other conditions.
Whenever antibiotics are taken, some bacteria are able to avoid or fight off the antibiotic and survive while most bacteria die. Over time and multiple treatments, the number of bacteria that can resist the antibiotic grows which eventually makes the antibiotic ineffective.