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Doctors concerned about antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs'

September 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Experts say a real-life public health hazard faces Americans today: "superbugs" and resistance to them. Showing a little restraint at the doctor's office could save many lives down the road.

Savannah Larsen, 3, is taking amoxicillin for her streptococcus bacterial infection. Her mom, Jaki Larsen, says when she first became a parent she used to pressure pediatricians for antibiotics.

"If the doctors were unsure, it could be bacterial, it could be viral, they were not sure, I would be like, 'Could we just have it?'" says Jaki.

Parents in search of quick relief for their kids often do the same. That's why infectious-disease experts say "superbug" infections are on the rise.

"The major contributing factor to increasing antibiotic resistance is the use of antibiotics," says Dr. Jon Willen, Northridge Hospital.

Antibiotics are often prescribed for ear infections.

Willen says some studies show kids often fare better without them.

"In certain instances if you don't treat ear infections with antibiotics, and you reevaluate the child two or three days, often they are significantly improved in a lot of cases with no antibiotic therapy," says Willen.

If superbugs aren't enough to discourage you from overusing antibiotics, doctors say there is a little-known side effect from taking these medications: clostridium difficile, or "C-Dif," can result in abdominal pain, diarrhea and in some cases death.

"We're not saying you shouldn't use antibiotics. Obviously they have a place. But you should not use antibiotics unless there's a good indication, unless there's indication that there's a bacterial infection," says Willen.

Jaki knows most colds are viral so antibiotics are often useless. She says now she's a mother of four, she's more relaxed and not as likely to be as demanding at the doctor's office.

"I think because I was so trigger-happy to get antibiotics -- I used to be one of those moms -- that now I'm leaning more towards the other way," says Jaki.

Finding that happy medium is always a challenge.


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