Infectious Disease Specialist Questions Antibiotics

If my daughter has a viral infection, why did the doctor prescribe antibiotics?

I read online that antibiotics are ideally prescribed for bacterial infection. However every time my daughter has a viral infection the doctor prescribes an antibiotic. Why? Should we see a new doctor?

3 Answers

If the situation is exactly as you state, then I agree you should look for a new pediatrician. Antibiotics are generally used to treat bacterial infections. Anti-viral meds are used to treat various viral infections but not common upper respiratory infections. Unnecessary antibiotics can be expensive, cause toxicity and side effects. They can also lead to colonization and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
You are absolutely correct that antibiotics should be used only to treat probable bacterial infections. Unfortunately, many doctors feel that patients are always asking to be given a prescription rather than taking the time to truly dig into what is actually going on. I am not recommending that you get a new doctor but it is very reasonable to ask this question to your doctor. I think if your doctor feels that it is consistent with a viral syndrome then antibiotics are not indicated. It is important to know that nothing we do is without risks or potential side effects. Therefore we must have a good indication to proceed with a specific treatment.
It is best to ask your doctor his reasoning why he is prescribing antibiotics. Patient education is crucial as it helps parent understand many illnesses. It is true that for viral upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) the treatment is targeted to treating the symptoms (depends on type of URTI as symptoms are different, but in general you use medications for pain and fever, try to keep hydrated drinking plenty of fluids, cold-mist humidifiers at night, and if its a child that cannot blow his/her nose the use of rubber suction bulbs and if necessary saline drops. Only your doctor can determine if you need antibiotics based on criteria for risk of developing a secondary bacterial infection, this can only be determined by the doctor who is seeing your daughter at the time of infection.