Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. These can be helpful in managing contagious or life threatening conditions but they can also do more harm than good if they are not used properly. Knowing when it is appropriate to use antibiotics can help to keep you and your family safe. If your child is experiencing a runny nose, sore throat or cough your doctor may choose to prescribe antibiotics but in many cases a respiratory illness can be managed without these medications. Understanding the harm of unnecessary antibiotic usecan help you determine when it might be appropriate to get a prescription and when you should seek other remedies.

When Is Antibiotic for Cough in Children Needed?

If your doctor diagnoses a bacterial infection then you may need antibiotics to treat it. Some ailments such as impetigo, skin infections, persistent ear infections, strep throat, bladder infections or bacterial pneumonia could require a course of antibiotics to treat.

Common colds do not need antibiotics to treat. Avoid antibiotics for viral infections. If your child has a viral infection antibiotics will not help. Your doctor can provide pain relievers until this disease passes. As parents, you should not push doctors to prescribe antibiotic for cough. Instead, ask for advice on how to help your child feel better. You can also click here to learn more remedies for cough in kids.

What you can do to help prevent situations of needing antibiotics is help your child grow immunizaiton against streptococcus pneumoniae, which are the most common invasive bacterial infections among children in the U.S., causing meningitis, pneumonia, and blood infections. 

Precautions on Using Antibiotic for Cough in Children

  • Follow all directions. When your child is using antibiotics make sure you follow the directions exactly so the infection will be killed off quickly.
  • Always give the full dosageDuring a course of antibiotics be sure to see the doses through until the end so bacteria do not remain and make your child sick again. If this happens your child could need stronger medications to treat the new infection.
  • Overuse of antibiotics can make the bacteria resistant to drugs, so pay attention to dosage. 

What Are the Side Effects of Antibiotic for Cough in Children?

Children will often go to the emergency room because of side effects to antibiotics including vomiting or diarrhea. In some cases an allergic reaction to antibiotics can be life threatening. You also do not want to overuse antibiotics because it could cause stronger bacteria that will not respond to these medications to grow. This is known as antibiotic resistance and it can spread to others such as schoolmates or family members which will make diseases more difficult to treat in general.

When to See a Doctor

If your child is having trouble breathing, drools or cannot swallow, turns red or purple as they cough, has persistent vomiting, seems very fatigued, wheezes or coughs up blood, has a weak immune system, has not been fully immunized, is under 4 months and has a temperature over 104 °F, has chest pain when they breathe deeply or could have an object caught in their throat, call your doctor right away.

If your child is choking, struggling for breath, grunts with each breath, cannot talk, has blue tinged fingernails or lips, passes out or stops breathing, call emergency medical services immediately.

What Other Cough Medicines Are Available?

Rememer that giving over the counter cough medicine to children under six is not recommended because there could be a higher risk of side effects including hallucinations, sleep problems or an allergic reaction which do not outweigh the potential benefit of this medication. Instead of using medication, offer your child a plain cough syrup which uses honey or glycerol for relief. You can also make your own beverage with water, honey or lemon. Do not give honey to children under one year old because of the risk of infant botulism. If you are to use other medicines, always consult your doctor. 

Cough Suppressants: Suppressants include dextromethorphan, pholcodine or antihistamines which tell the brain to restrict a dry cough. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness which could help if you cannot sleep due to a cough. You could also have difficulty passing urine, dry mouth, constipation or blurred vision. These can also interact with other medications so talk to your doctor before taking antihistamines. Pholcodine or dextromethorphan do not usually interact with other medications or cause many side effects.

ExpectorantsExpectorants help with chest coughs by making it easier to cough up mucus. These can include squill, guaifenesin, ammonium chloride, ipecacuanha or sodium citrate. These are usually used in small amounts so they are not likely to interact with other medications or lead to side effects.