Children are still overprescribed antibiotics, even though prescriptions for antibiotics have gone down

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Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control announced Thursday in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that while antibiotic use in children is down, antibiotics are still prescribed more than they should be.

The report found that antibiotic prescriptions for children younger than 14 dropped 24 percent from 1993 to 2008, showing the use of antibiotics going from 300 antibiotic courses for every 1,000 office visits to 229 antibiotic courses for every 1,000 office visits.

In addition, the report found that antibiotic prescriptions for sore throats dropped 26 percent and antibiotic prescriptions for children with colds dropped 19 percent. Prescriptions for earaches, bronchitis and sinusitis have not had a significant change over the same time period.

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In 2003, antibiotic resistance was identified by the Institute of Medicine as a key threat to health in the United States. Because of this, the recommendation was put forward to promote appropriate antibiotic use. The changes reflected in the study likely represent a combination of several factors, including a decreased need for antibiotics. The decreased need for antibiotics shows that traditionally, physicians have been overprescribing the drugs. Taking antibiotics when not needed can build up the resistance the Institute of Medicine referenced.

One significant result the study reported was that antibiotic use dramatically dropped off around 1995, which was around the time the Centers for Disease Control began an intensive campaign to cut back on antibiotic prescriptions for those who do not really need them.

The CDC is running a campaign this year called Get Smart Week 2011, which aims to represent to the public the types of diseases for which antibiotics should be prescribed. The CDC wants the public to understand that viral diseases such as colds or flu, coughs and bronchitis, sore throats not caused by strep and runny noses are viral and not diseases for which antibiotics should be prescribed.

The CDC wants the public to understand that when antibiotics are needed, they should be taken appropriately. Antibiotics should be taken exactly as doctors prescribe, and the course of treatment should be completed even if the symptoms are abating. If treatment is stopped too soon, symptoms may return and bacteria may re-infect the patient. The CDC also wants patients to talk to their doctors about antibiotic resistance to ensure they and their families are not overprescribed antibiotics.

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