The survey of over 1,000 respondents found that close to one third of parents visit their GPs with the intention of getting antibiotics to treat under-14-year-old children who have sore throats, coughs or colds. This suggests some parents are unaware that these are usually self-limiting infections that will resolve without antibiotics.
The treatment of ear infection appears to cause the most concern for parents. 55% of parents expect an antibiotic prescription for their child’s earache, and 42% would ask for antibiotics. Although antibiotics are sometimes required for ear infections, they mostly clear up on their own. After 24 hours 6 out of 10 children are feeling better, whether they had antibiotics or not.
For coughs, colds and sore throats:
- 31% of parents expect and 23% ask for antibiotics to treat their child’s sore throat
- 28% expect and 23% ask for antibiotics to treat their child’s cough
- 23% expect and 19% ask for antibiotics to treat their child’s cold
NPS MedicineWise Medical Adviser Dr Andrew Boyden said: “When a child is sick, it’s a worrying time for parents, but it’s important to remember that antibiotics are not the answer to all infections.
“Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed increases the likelihood of resistance developing, leading to antibiotics being less effective. If the child were to contract a serious bacterial infection, antibiotics may not work for them in the future, which could be potentially life-threatening.”
"A typically healthy child’s immune system is powerful and will clear up most common infections on its own. What the child will need in most cases is time and rest to recover, with over-the-counter pain relief medications if required.”
The survey also investigated parents’ expectations of how long it should take their child to recover from a sore throat, cold, cough and earache. Results showed parents generally expect symptoms to last for a shorter time than they actually do.
For instance, parents thought a child’s cold should last a median of 6 days, whereas studies show only 50% of children are better at 10 days, and symptoms can last up to two weeks. For coughs, parents expected symptoms to last a median of 6 days, whereas 50% of children’s coughs will take longer than 10 days to resolve.
According to the survey, a large number of parents will bring their child to see a GP with concerns over their symptoms, close to or on the day they believe the symptoms should have subsided.
“These findings appear to illustrate a disconnect between when many parents think their child should have made a recovery, and how long some of these kinds of symptoms can actually last. This could help explain why they go to the GP thinking that antibiotics may be needed, when often they are not required,” Dr Boyden said.
“It’s important to go the GP if parents are worried about their child or would like advice on how to manage their symptoms.”
Additional information that parents should know about coughs, colds, ear aches and sore throats can be found here.
Got a question about your medicines? Call Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 (1300 MEDICINE) to speak with a health professional Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm AEST (excluding NSW public holidays).
Jonathan Abbott: 0419 618 365 or [email protected]