- When infected children are taken to hospital, it is common for doctors to prescribe antibiotics to help relieve symptoms and speed up the healing process.
- Even though the therapeutic approach is widespread, health experts question its effectiveness and discourage the widespread use of drugs to fight all lung infections.
Children are generally vulnerable to respiratory ailments or lung infections resulting from the flu and colds, among others.
Lung infections often present with symptoms such as cough, headache, fatigue, fever, chest pain, muscle aches, shortness of breath, or rapid heartbeat.
When infected children are taken to hospital, it is common for doctors to prescribe antibiotics to help relieve symptoms and speed up the healing process.
Even though the therapeutic approach is widespread, health experts question its effectiveness and discourage the widespread use of drugs to fight all lung infections.
Based on the results of a large research trial, which was published in the Lancet Journal, the use of amoxicillin-based antibiotics to treat uncomplicated lung infections in children does not have much traction. importance in relieving symptoms than the use of no medication.
“Children given amoxycillin for chest infections where the doctor doesn’t think the child has pneumonia don’t recover much faster,” noted Paul Little, the study’s lead author and professor of primary care research at the University of Southampton in the UK. (UK).
“The use of these antibiotics in such cases is not likely to help and could be harmful.”
According to the researchers, using antibiotics to treat conditions, especially when they are ineffective – such as in the case of uncomplicated lung infections – will expose infected children to harmful side effects of the drugs, including rashes. , nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain. and allergic reactions.
Worse still, they note that the over-prescription of these drugs, when they are not necessarily needed, is a major contributor to the challenge of antibiotic resistance that healthcare sectors around the world are currently facing.
“Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to public health and could in the future make much of what is currently routine medical practice very difficult, if not impossible,” the researchers warn.
Indeed, studies in Kenya have revealed that due to antibiotic resistance, a myriad of infectious diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, cholera and blood poisoning are becoming increasingly difficult to manage, costing life to thousands of Kenyans.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization warns that if the challenge of drug resistance continues to worsen, due to the misuse of antibiotics, it will do much to weaken the achievements brought about by modern medicine.
This is because doctors usually rely on effective antibiotics to prevent infections during critical medical procedures such as chemotherapy for cancer treatment, organ transplants, among other life-saving surgeries.
While previous research has indicated that antibiotics are not effective for uncomplicated lung infections in adults, the same level of research has been lacking in children. Therefore, the new study sought to fill the knowledge gap.
To achieve this, scientists (from the universities of Southampton, Bristol, Oxford and Cardiff) conducted a research trial to test whether amoxicillin reduces the duration of moderately severe symptoms in children with uncomplicated lung infections.
The trial, which was funded by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), recruited 432 children aged six months to twelve years.
Doctors or nurses assessed their lung infection symptoms at the start of the study while parents, with the help of their children where possible, completed a daily symptom diary.
At the end of the study, only a small, non-significant difference in duration of symptoms was reported between children who had taken amoxicillin-based antibiotics and those who had not.
Parental costs, such as time off work or the cost of over-the-counter remedies, were very similar in the two groups.
“Our results suggest that unless pneumonia is suspected, clinicians should provide ‘safety net’ advice such as explaining the course of the disease what to expect and when it would be needed. to return but not to prescribe antibiotics for most children with lung infections,” said Dr Alastair Hay, another study author from the University of Bristol Academic Primary Care Centre.
The researchers note that the majority of lung infections are often caused by viruses. It is therefore important that doctors carry out tests and be sure of the diagnosis before prescribing antibiotics in order to avoid their misuse.