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General information for parents about antibiotic resistance and how to prevent it.

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are chemical compounds designed to kill bacteria, not viruses. When administered for viruses, antibiotics are more than simply ineffective. They can have long-term consequences that can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause serious illness and are more difficult to treat.

How to prevent antibiotic-resistant infections

  • Do not expect an antibiotic for every illness or infection. Antibiotics should only be used when your health care provider has determined that there is a bacterial illness for which they are likely to be effective.
  • Antibiotics will not cure most colds, coughs, sore throats or runny noses, usually caused by viruses. Children fight off colds on their own.
  • Take an antibiotic exactly as the doctor tells you. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment, even if you are feeling better.
  • Do not save any antibiotics for the next time you get sick. Properly dispose of any leftover antibiotics once you complete your prescribed course of treatment.
  • Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Taking the wrong medicine may cause serious harm.
  • Wash your hands often with soap or alcohol-based cleansers. Learn The ABC's of Hand Washing.
  • Get vaccinated. Know about The Importance of Immunizations.

What types of infections are antibiotics used for?

Chart to help understand the type of sicknesses that are caused by bacteria and viruses.

Antibiotic needed?
Cold (clear/yellow/ green runny nose)
Middle ear infection
Sinus infection
Strep throat

What to do if children have the flu or a cold (viral infections)?

  • Increase their fluid intake.
  • If needed for fever or pain, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends acetaminophen for children under 6 months of age and acetaminophen or ibuprofen for children aged 6 months and older.
  • Use a cool mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray to relieve congestion.
  • If desired, ice chips or throat lozenges to soothe pain from a sore throat may be given to children age 4 years and older; they may be a choking hazard in younger children.
  • See your doctor if the symptoms do not improve in 10-14 days.
  • Let your doctor decide if an antibiotic is needed.

When should children return to child care or school?

  • Although child care centers and schools have their own rules about this, most pediatricians recommend that sick children stay at home until they have been fever free for 24 hours.
  • Children need to be eating, sleeping and acting “like themselves” again before returning to school.

For more information on children’s common health issues visit:

Proper disposal of prescription drugs:

Do not flush medications down the toilet, unless the medication label states it is safe. Protect the environment by properly disposing of medications:

  • You will need cat litter or coffee grounds, a sealable plastic bag and a hammer, and/or water.
  • Crush unused solid medications and dilute liquid medications with water.
  • Mix the medication with cat litter, coffee grounds, or other absorbent solid wastes.
  • Place the medication in a plastic bag and seal to avoid the risk of poisoning children or animals.
  • Remove all identifying personal information from the medication container.
  • Place the bag and the drug container in the garbage.

Public Service Announcement from the CDC