Can’t you just call in an antibiotic for me?

Our guest blogger today is Dr. Jason Komasz. Practicing pediatrics in Pennsylvania for nearly a decade, he is the father of two and a respected colleague.

“Can’t you just call in an antibiotic for me?
As doctors we hear this question a lot.  Parents are often disappointed and upset when we answer that question with a “No.”  Your child is sick, you missed the Saturday office hours, and now you can’t schedule an appointment until Monday morning.  There are reasons why doctors usually do, and should, answer “no” to this question.

  1. Not every illness requires an antibiotic. Only bacterial illnesses respond to antibiotics and many illnesses are viral. In fact, misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance in our population.
  1. The physical exam is very important in the evaluation of a patient.  The exam helps doctors determine if a patient needs antibiotics, and if so, what type.  If we do not see a patient, we are “flying blind.”  This puts the patient as risk for misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment.
  1. Antibiotic use before a patient is evaluated can affect laboratory results. For example, after starting antibiotics, Strep Throat and urinary tract infection tests may be inaccurate and therefore obligate the patient to an unnecessary course of antibiotics.
  1. All but the most severely ill patients can usually be managed at home with pain/fever control and symptomatic care (fluids, etc) until they can be evaluated by a doctor.
  1. If your child is ill enough to require an antibiotic, he is sick enough to need an evaluation by a physician.  It is better to wait in an ER and receive proper care than to just treat without proper evaluation.

As always, your physician is trying to do what is best for your child.  Your doctor should always be able to offer an explanation for why he or she is choosing a particular course of action for your child’s illness.  We do not want them to suffer, just as you don’t.  Just remember, the antibiotic is not always the answer.

Jason M. Komasz, M.D., F.A.A.P.
© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod®