Health Buzz: Doctors Overprescribe Antibiotics for Children

Are Americans taking too many drugs? Should kids diet?


Children Get Antibiotics Unnecessarily, Study Suggests

Pediatricians are overprescribing antibiotics, scribbling an estimated 10 million unnecessary prescriptions every year for problems like the flu or asthma, new research suggests. Researchers analyzed outpatient visits for roughly 65,000 children under 18 from 2006 to 2008. They found that roughly 25 percent of antibiotic prescriptions went to kids who had bronchitis, the flu, asthma, or allergies—conditions that typically don't call for them, Reuters reports. What's more, many of the prescriptions were for antibiotics that kill a swath of bacteria, including the beneficial kind, which could mean digestion problems for kids. The findings are particularly worrisome, experts say, because taking antibiotics when they're not warranted could raise a child's risk of developing an antibiotic-resistant infection. Antibiotic overprescribing can also be dangerous for society, leading to antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." Parents can avoid a possible unnecessary prescription by waiting to see whether the illness improves or clears after a couple of days, rather than rushing the child to the doctor immediately.

  • It's Still Hard to Know When Kids Need Antibiotics
  • Too Many Kids Getting Antibiotics for Asthma
  • Overmedication: Are Americans Taking Too Many Drugs?

    Socrates once declared that medicine "acts as both remedy and poison" and that "this charm, this spellbinding virtue, this power of fascination, can be­—alternately or simultaneously—beneficent or maleficent." Modern America clearly appreciates the benefits. A full 61 percent of adults use at least one drug to treat a chronic health problem, a nearly 15 percent rise since 2001. More than 1 in 4 seniors gulp down at least five medications daily. The trend has multiple causes: a spike in diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis related to obesity; revised medical guidelines that treat high blood sugar, hypertension, and high cholesterol sooner; and a multibillion-dollar push by pharmaceutical companies to speak directly to consumers about the payoff in trusting our hearts to Lipitor, say, or taking Boniva to help stop bone loss. [Read more: Overmedication: Are Americans Taking Too Many Drugs?]

    • Are Your Drugs Safe?
    • Taking Heart Drugs? 9 Supplements to Avoid (and Some Alternatives)
    • Kids Who Diet: When Are They Too Young?

      Late last year, actress Ginnifer Goodwin, 32, made headlines after revealing she joined Weight Watchers when she was 9. Though critics said she was too young to diet, Goodwin defended herself and the program: "I went to weekly meetings, got counseling, and would exercise with my peers who were my size," she told People magazine. "It was the first time I saw a proper children's portion size, and it wasn't two burgers, it was one."

      "Fat has become the boogieman of our time," says British Columbia-based eating-disorder counselor Sandra Friedman, author of When Girls Feel Fat: Helping Girls Through Adolescence. "Kids are counting calories before they even have any idea what a calorie is."

      Most pediatricians plot a child's body mass index on a growth chart, starting at birth, because of the health consequences of weighing either too little or too much, says Seema Kumar, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic. Obesity in childhood, for example, is linked to diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, and sleep disorders. Those kids, Kumar says, are typically directed to approaches like supervised diets, behavior modification, and intensive exercise. [Read more: Kids Who Diet: When Are They Too Young?]

      • Best Diets Rankings
      • Best Diets for Healthy Eating
      • Popular Health Articles from

        • How to Find the Right Doctor
        • How to Stay on a Diet to Lose or Maintain Weight
        • HCG Diet Dangers: Is Fast Weight Loss Worth the Risk?
        • To Fix Your Health Habits, Do It All at Once
        • Optimism Protects Teens From Depression, Health Risks
        • Video: What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
        • Need Care? Scan the Rankings: Best Hospitals, Best Diets, and Top Doctors.