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So your child has a cold. Do you need antibiotics?

Premier Medical Group Pediatrician
Dr. Katie Pegram has some answers
to common questions about antibiotics.

The following article is written by Dr. Katie Pegram, MD, FAAP:

We get it. Your child is miserable, sneezing green slugs everywhere, swiping snot across his face and every piece of furniture you own, coughing, complaining of a sore throat. He may even have a fever. We are on your side, and we want to do everything to help your child feel better. But please understand, sometimes doing nothing is far better than doing something.

Let’s look at the facts:

The common cold is viral in nature. The most common viruses causing these symptoms are:

  • Rhinovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • RSA
  • Influenza
  • Human metapneumovirus
  • Human bocavirus

Common symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever (up to 50% have fever that resolves by day 3 but may linger for longer)

Just for reiteration:

Fever is normal with viruses. It does not necessarily mean your child has a bacterial infection. Average duration is 7-9 days, but symptoms may be present for up to 15 days. The cough however, may be a nuisance long after the other symptoms resolve.

What to expect:

In the first two years of life, children average 2-8 upper respiratory infections a year. Children in daycare can average up to 14 per year! That’s at least one a month, and with each one lasting up to two weeks, you may feel that no sooner than your child clears one cold, she’s moved on to her next. I’m here to tell you that’s NORMAL.

So why don’t we whip out our prescription pads and write an antibiotic for every green, snotty nose we see? Because antibiotics do not treat viruses. In fact, using an antibiotic when unnecessary:

  • Puts your child at risk to becoming colonized with resistant bacteria
  • Promotes antibiotic resistance in the community
  • Causes innumerable allergic reactions and adverse medication side effects

But here’s what we CAN do:

We understand the misery of a bad cold. We want your children to feel relief as soon as possible, because that’s our job and because we know that helps you rest easier. Treatment is largely supportive, meaning your job is to help alleviate their symptoms as best you can. This includes:

  • Increasing fluids (this helps hydrate which makes them feel better, thin secretions which reduces pressure, and flush their system)
  • Ensuring they get plenty of rest
  • Whipping out your humidifier
  • And in the younger kiddos, using your nasal saline and bulb suction to help clear those tiny nasal passages

Should you use over-the-counter cough and cold meds?

Only in certain instances. They should NOT be used in kiddos younger than four, and only used with extreme caution in those younger than age six. We’ve learned from extensive medical studies that the most common ingredient in OTC cough syrups (dextromethorphan) is no better than placebo. And guess what? Honey IS better than placebo, but only if your child is at least one year old. And it’s yummy, and they’ll love it.

So while you may want to strangle us when you hear the word “viral” come out of our mouths, please understand that we are not heartless and unsympathetic to the misery that’s occurring at home. It’s because we care and we want what’s best for your child.

Our main priority at Premier Medical Group is to help keep our Clarksville community healthy especially the kiddos. It’s all part of PMG #FullCircleCare. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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