I have had many parents call me asking for me to prescribe an antibiotic for their child's cold and I tell them time and again...they do not work when your child has a cold!

Antibiotic prescribing is highest for young children. But, antibiotics need to be used appropriately in order to ensure that drugs are effective, as well as to prevent antibiotic resistance.  The whole country is well into the “cough and cold season” and most of these illnesses are caused by viruses.  ANTIBIOTICS can only cure bacterial illnesses - not viral illnesses. 

Taking an antibiotic for a viral illness will NOT cure your child’s cough and cold, nor will it help your child feel better any faster, and it will NOT keep others from catching your child’s viral illness.  These viral illnesses include colds, influenza (flu), RSV, most sore throats (unless strep) and even most sinus infections.  Not even all ear infections may need an antibiotic to resolve, especially in children over the age of 2-3 years. 

Although many people “believe” that green mucous means a bacterial infection, as your body’s immune system works to fight off a viral upper respiratory infection mucous can change color. It is quite common for the color to change from clear, to yellow to green before the viral infection resolves. This does not mean that a child (or adult) needs an antibiotic. 

Lastly, while antibiotics may be life saving, there are potential complications that can occur when taking an antibiotic, including tummy aches and diarrhea as well as serious allergic reactions.  You want to only take antibiotics when really needed. 

I have spent the last 2 weekends on call and already feel like I have seen a million green runny noses, including my own!!  But a little saline nose rinse, lots of kleenex, some steamy showers and time will work for the majority of us.  Almost every parent asks me “don’t you have something else that will WORK for this cold”? Honestly, if I did I would be taking it myself and selling it on the internet for $9.99 a bottle!!  I do know, but it is not an antibiotic! 

But you can go to www.cdc.gov/getsmart/index.html . This site may give you some more tips on how to help your child’s viral illness.