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A member asked:

Why hasn't the doctor given my baby antibiotics for her cold?

18 doctor answers33 doctors weighed in
Dr. Anatoly Belilovsky
Pediatrics 35 years experience
It's useless...: ...For a cold. Some colds develop into more serious infections such as ear infections, but it is a bad idea to start antibiotics before you actually need them.
Dr. Arthur Torre
Pediatric Allergy and Asthma 51 years experience
Not effective: Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics treat bacteria. Doctors will often give antibiotics for the complications of a cold if they develop - like ear and sinus infections.
Dr. Scott Katz
Pediatrics 26 years experience
They don't help: Colds are caused by viruses, and as such antibiotics do not help at all. However colds can "turn into" other infections. Therefore if your child isn't getting better in a few days, or seems to be getting worse, she needs to be reexamined.
Dr. Gregg Alexander
Pediatrics 33 years experience
May harm, won't help: Using antibiotics for cold viruses only puts your baby at more risk. There are no antibiotics which fight cold viruses. Using them for a cold can actually put your baby at more risk: antibiotics can lead to diarrhea and some people have allergic reactions that can sometimes be serious. Plus, "super bugs" like MRSA come from antibiotic overuse. Your doctor hasn't given them because he/she cares.
Dr. Douglas Tzanetos
Allergy and Immunology 19 years experience
They won't help: Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. They do not help viral infections. Colds (upper respiratory tract infections) are caused by viruses. There are only a few head and neck infections that benefit from antibiotics. These are strep throat, ear infections, and true/full blown sinus infections (typically last longer than 2 weeks). Other upper respiratory infections do not need antibiotics.
Dr. Pamela Lindor
Pediatrics 32 years experience
COLD = VIRAL: Antibiotics kill bacteria. Colds are caused by viruses. All the antibiotics in the world will not help a baby fight off a cold, in fact, they can cause side effects and make the baby feel worse.
Dr. Robert Kwok
Pediatrics 33 years experience
Doctor thinks viral: If a doctor thinks the 11 month old's cold symptoms are cause by a virus, and the symptoms are not severe, and are under 7-10 day's duration, he likely will not use antibiotics. The common meaning of "antibiotics" is anti-bacterials. If the doctor swabs the throat and diagnoses strep throat; or an ear infection, or rhino-sinusitis (nose & sinus infection), then antibiotics will likely be used.
Dr. Mark Diamond
Pediatrics 46 years experience
Don't Work for Colds: An uncomplicated cold is a viral disease. Antibiotics do not work to eliminate viruses. If the infection is thought to be caused by a bacteria, then antiobiotics help the body's immune system fight the disease. Too much inappropriate antibiotic use has led to resistant infections where antibiotics should but do not work. Thus be careful.
Dr. Victoria Acharya
Specializes in Pediatrics
Not needed!: Colds are caused by viruses, which aren't treated by antibiotics. All medications have side effects, and there is always a risk of a serious reaction. In addition, we now know that antibiotics cause resistance in that individual patient, so we avoid giving them if they aren't needed, because we want the medicine to work when we do need it!
Dr. Holly Maes
Pediatrics 36 years experience
It's a virus: Colds are caused by viruses and not bacteria, so antibiotics will not help either cure or shorten the duration of the cold's symptoms. Your baby may develop problems secondary to the cold, such as an ear infection that may need antibiotics. But the routine virus is taken care of by your baby's own immune system and just takes time and care. Also, antibiotics can have side effects - yuk!
Dr. Pamela Middleton
Pediatrics 40 years experience
Abx will not help: Colds are caused by viruses which cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics should be reserved for bacterial infections. If antibiotics are prescribed for viral infections your child can develop resistance to antibiotics and when she gets a bacterial infection the medication may not be able to cure the infection.
Dr. Julia Sundel
Pediatrics 18 years experience
No need: Colds are due to viruses. Antibiotics won't help. They are used for bacterial infections. Save them for when they truly are needed. Frequent use of antibiotics has led to the growth of resistant bacterial strains. This is not a good thing.
Dr. Kevin Rodbell
Pediatrics 18 years experience
They don't work!: Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics don't kill viruses, and they can have unwanted side effects, like diarrhea, rashes, yeast infections, etc. Doctors treat antibiotics with respect and take great caution to prescribe them only when they are really going to help. Remember the modicum: the best medicine is the one you don't need to take!
Dr. Josephine Ruiz-healy
Pediatrics 39 years experience
Waste of money: Most common colds are viral infections that go away on their own, the immune system takes care of them, and antibiotics are not needed nor do they work on viruses. Antibiotics are prescribed when you have a bacterial infection.
Dr. Jay Park
Dr. Jay Parkanswered
Pediatrics 50 years experience
They don't help: "cold" is a self-limiting infection caused by viruses which are not susceptible to antibiotics. Does antibiotics protect the infant/child from developing a complication such as ear infection or pneumonia? Answer is no and prophylactic use of antibiotics is not justified.
Dr. Daniel Rudolph
Pediatrics 29 years experience
Most colds are viral: Most common colds are caused by virsues and therefore do not need treatment with antibiotics. Doctors are trying to limit the overuse of antitbiotics because this can lead to resistance by the bacteria they are meant to treat. In a case where it is viral, it is best to let the immune system clear the infection. Antibiotics with a viral infection will not clear the virus any faster.
Dr. John Leander Po
Infectious Disease 18 years experience
Useless vs. viruses: A majority of colds are caused by viruses (e.g.Rhinovirus). Since antibiotics (abx) only treat bacterial infections, they are useless against primary virus infections. In fact, the time between giving an abx and when the pt feels "better", is the same as if the pt didn't take an abx.That means the pt's immune system will, in many cases, take care of it; supportive measures make it less arduous.
Dr. Terri Graham
Pediatrics 31 years experience
Yes/no antibiotic?: Your baby's provider undoubtedly looked for all diagnoses that antibiotics would be absolutely necessary for. Those would include: ear infection or pneumonia (young babies do not have developed sinuses). Riding out a viral infection can be frustrating, but antibiotics do not treat them. The most uncomfortable thing is a stuffy nose so using saline drops and suctioning is the best approach.

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Last updated May 24, 2018


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