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New Study Suggests Early Antibiotic Use Helps Prevent Cold From Developing In At-Risk Children

December 7, 2015
pediatric care

It’s almost 2016 and there’s still no cure for the common cold. Sure, it can be annoying, debilitating, and frustrating beyond belief, but they typically don’t last more than a week or two. Except when it comes to young children. It’s not uncommon for a head cold to turn into a severe respiratory infection of some kind in kids, making pediatric care that much more important. It’s a serious issue that one team of doctors and researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis believe they might have found a solution to.

Leonard B. Bacharier, MD, professor of pediatric care was the lead author on a new study the team had published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Nov. 17. The study specifically looked at children who are prone to wheezing and difficulty breathing when they come down with a cold.

The average child catches between six and 10 colds a year, but the effects can be particularly severe when it comes to children that suffer from these conditions as well. The evidence they found suggests giving these children a common antibiotic at the first sign of a cold can greatly reduce the risk of it developing into a more serious respiratory infection, according to the Washington University website.

“Oral corticosteroids such as prednisone have become the standard of care for these situations,” said Bacharier. “But there are some studies that suggest these treatments don’t consistently work for young children. That’s why we want to find ways to prevent upper respiratory infections from progressing to lower respiratory tract illnesses.”

While it might not seem feasible for parents to have antibiotics on standby in the event a child comes down with a sickness, the rise of urgent care centers makes this study’s findings even more interesting. In the U.S. alone, there are over 6,800 urgent care clinics, which see an estimated three million patients a week combined.

Many of these locations, like AFC/Doctors Express, offer point-of-care antibiotics that can be dispensed immediately following a diagnosis. This means parents can get the medicine into their kids a lot quicker than scheduling a doctors appointment, getting a prescription, and getting it filled later at a pharmacy.

The research might turnout to be ground-breaking, but there is still reason to be cautious about unnecessary medications in pediatric care.

“We want to be prudent with our antibiotic use,” Bacharier said. “We don’t want to overdo this. On the other hand, these are children having severe episodes for which we don’t have a lot of effective therapy. A significant number are getting an antibiotic therapy anyway and have to be very sick to get it. Our study suggests we can reduce the risk of severe respiratory illnesses by giving azithromycin treatment earlier.”