What all parents need to know about antibiotic resistance.

NPS MedicineWise
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There is nothing worse than being sick. At the depths of it you feel like you’ll never be well again. You lie in bed surrounded by scrunched up tissues wishing someone would bring you an orange juice and ordering all your meals on Menulog.

Except maybe the one thing that is worse is when your child is sick. Not only are they miserable, but most of the time there’s nothing you can do but ride it out while plying them with fluids and making sure there’s plenty of tissues on hand.

And when you drag them to the doctor in an attempt to get something stronger, you’re likely to be told there’s nothing they can do.

If your doctor is anything like mine, they will listen to your child’s breathing, check out your child’s throat and temperature, and then tell you to go home, make sure they keep up their fluids and get some rest. Because more often than not, that gross, mucky puddle they’ve become is the result of a virus, not a bacterial infection. And there are no antibiotics that can fix it.


"There is nothing worse than being sick." Image via iStock.

Which really sucks. There’s nothing you want more than to help sickness go away more quickly. Whether it’s trying to speed your child’s recovery or your own, most of us get to the point where we lose all perspective and are willing to try anything to feel better.

I’m not going to lie. Sometimes when I’m feeling really awful I beg my doctor to take mercy on me. Give me something. Anything to fix it. “Please,” I say, “Can I please have some antibiotics – just a small amount, to help chase it off.”

She always looks at me in severe frustration and explains to me what I already know to be true.

Antibiotics are for bacterial infections. Not viruses. They don’t work on viruses. And every time you take them when they can’t help you, you’re helping to make the bacteria that causes infections resistant to antibiotics.

Because the more antibiotics we take, the more opportunities bacteria have to adapt and change to beat the antibiotics next time. Overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the rise of some very serious antibiotic resistant superbugs that are 100 per cent as bad as they sound.


The World Health Organization (WHO) says antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. It’s not some abstract threat coming in the future, right now there are bacterial infections that can’t be killed by any of the antibiotics currently known to science.

"Really, really bad for our kids." Image via iStock.


The WHO estimates that 10 million people a year across the world could die by 2050 if we can’t stop the rise of antibiotic resistance. Without effective antibiotics, we will essentially return to a time without antibiotics. You know, before penicillin. When really basic infections could kill and surgery was super dangerous because there was no way to combat post-op infections.

Total disaster.

And really, really bad for our kids.

Usually, on my empty-handed trip home from the doctor I try to think about all this stuff and remind myself that the placebo effect of taking antibiotics when they would do absolutely nothing is outweighed by the danger of antibiotic resistance.

I don’t want to get to a point where we can’t treat common infections, and we’re putting the lives of our loved ones at risk. So I have a few rules that I live by to try and do my bit to not make things worse.

If the doctor tells me it’s a cold or a virus I don’t ask them for antibiotics. I just accept there’s going to be a few days of wallowing, coughing and sneezing.

If I do have an infection and I’m given a script I fill it and take the full course. If for some reason I have left over pills or repeats I don’t need, I throw them away. I don’t horde them for the next bout of illness or share them with family members.


"I’m not going to lie. Sometimes when I’m feeling really awful I beg my doctor to take mercy on me. " Image via iStock.

I listen to my doctor, and I try my best to trust her.

And luckily for me – when I do crack and beg for that extra “helping hand”, she always, always turns me down.

Because she knows not being able to fix an infection when it does strike is going to be so much worse than enduring a bad bout of flu.

How do you ensure your family are in the best of health?