Antibiotic prescriptions are being written less frequently for patients with respiratory tract infections, which include ear infections, sinus infections and bronchitis, as well as colds and flu.
Antibiotics must be used judiciously or they'll start to lose their effectiveness. Bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae are a growing problem as they've become resistant to entire classes of antibiotic drugs. This means many bacterial illnesses are harder to treat. Further, antibiotics that are developed to combat resistant bacteria are generally more expensive and often more toxic.
The most egregious misuse of antibiotics is when they're used to treat a viral illness such as the common cold. Antibiotics are effective against bacteria, not viruses. However, ear infections, sinus infections and bronchitis may be viral, bacterial or both, so sometimes antibiotics are prescribed just in case there's a bacterial component.
The Journal of the American Medical Association study showed inn children younger than 5, rates of antibiotic prescription decreased by 27% overall, and by 36% in patients with respiratory tract infections. In children 5 and older and adults, overall rates of antibiotic prescription didn't change over the study period, but an 18% decrease was found for people with respiratory tract infections.
For ear infections -- the most frequent reason for prescribing antibiotics to young children -- researchers found antibiotic use didn't change during the study period. Antibiotics were prescribed about 80% of the time an ear infection was diagnosed in kids less than 5 years old.
Bonnie - while encouraging, there still needs to a major reduction in children with ear infections. More often than not, watchful waiting will be effective and will lower the amount of recurrences.