Antibiotics are prescribed far too often to children, and for conditions that don't even respond to the drug, say researchers in a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
Based on some 65,000 outpatient doctor visits by children between 2006 and 2008, researchers found that one in five visits resulted in a prescription for antibiotics, even if the child had an ailment for which antibiotics typically don't work, such as bronchitis, the flu, asthma, or allergies.
That's over 10 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, says study leader Adam Hersh of the University of Utah.
Often, antibiotics are prescribed "just to be on the safe side,"
Hersh says. But "broad spectrum" antibiotics -- about half of those prescribed -- kill a wide range of bacteria, including beneficial ones.
In addition, overprescribing contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections.
Watchful waiting may be key to helping stop the overuse of antibiotics in children, says Hersh. "If the diagnosis is still a little unclear, ask if it would be safe to wait a day or two with close follow up rather than starting the antibiotic right away," he added.