Children with asthma are being prescribed antibiotics they don’t need

written by Meena Azzollini

sick litle girl lying on bed with asthma puffer given to her

Credit:123RF

When children get very sick, they are often prescribed antibiotics to treat infections such as colds and viral illnesses. Over time, however, excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics helps create bacterial infections which become harder to treat.

A study from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, found that children with asthma are more likely to be prescribed antibiotics than children without asthma, even though there is no evidence that antibiotics are required.

In the study, evidence showed that most of the antibiotic prescription was for children with asthma, to treat asthma exacerbations or bronchitis which is often caused by a virus and not bacteria.

The study involved 1.5 million children from the UK, including around 150,000 with asthma and further 375,000 from The Netherlands, including around 30,000 with asthma.

The researchers compared prescription data of children with asthma with those of children without asthma. They then compared the situation in the UK with the situation in The Netherlands. Both countries follow the same international guidelines on asthma treatment, which states that antibiotics for asthma exacerbations are generally not indicated.

The researchers found that children with asthma were 1.6 times more likely to be given antibiotic prescription compared to children without asthma. The prescription rate in the UK was twice as much as the prescription for antibiotics to treat asthma in The Netherlands. Amoxicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic in both countries.

The researchers conclude that since the rate of antibiotic prescription in both countries is high, it is likely the same elsewhere. The Netherlands has the lowest antibiotic use in the world thus, in other countries where antibiotic use is higher, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, the situation can be potentially dangerous.

In the study, evidence showed that most of the antibiotic prescription was for children with asthma, to treat asthma exacerbations or bronchitis which is often caused by a virus and not bacteria.

The researchers believe that deterioration in asthma symptoms are often mistaken as bacterial respiratory infection as doctors find it hard to differentiate between the both causing them to prescribe antibiotics.

Antibiotics should only be prescribed when there is clear indication of a bacterial infection such as pneumonia and prescribing unnecessary antibiotics as a preventative measure especially to children with asthma will harm them in the long run besides exacerbating the rise of drug-resistant infections in our society.

Source: European Respiratory Society International Congress


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!