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Are Socio-Economic Factors to Blame for Superbugs

As parents most of us already know that antibiotics are not any use against stuff like the common cold or bronchitis. We also know that too many antibiotics can damage our and our child's immune system by creating an antibiotic resistance which could in turn cause all sorts of potential harm if REAL infection comes around. So why are doctors still prescribing so many useless or unneeded antibiotics?

A story in the Wall Street Journal on August 1, 2011 written by Katherine Hobson tells us how although the numbers of antibiotic prescriptions are decreasing they are still much too high.

The good news is that according to new statistics from the Centers for Disease Control prescription rates fell between 2007 and 2008 as compared to rates from 1993 and 1994 by about 24%, including acute respiratory infections, prescription rates fell 11%; specifically, rates fell 26% for sore throat (pharyngitis) and 19% for the common cold.

One reason for the change is an almost instantaneous strep throat test that helps doctors to rule out a bacterial infection during a single office visit but the numbers are still way too high.

The bad news is that between 2007 and 2008 58% of the prescriptions for antibiotics that were written were for acute respiratory infections which mean they were unnecessary. The numbers break down to 229 antibiotic prescriptions out of 1000 doctor visits with.

There was no change in the prescriptions for ear infections even though doctors were told in 2004 to adopt a watchful waiting attitude for ages 2 and up. Nor were there any changes for bronchitis and sinus infections. Why?

Maryn McKenna's Superbug Blog. Explains how external factors may be to blame.

For many parents, that was just in case uncertainty; for parents of children in daycare, it was knowing that a sniffly kid wouldn't be accepted by the daycare without proof that an antibiotic had been prescribed. And for both sides, it was the unfortunate reality that we've trained people, as a society, to recognize the proffering of a prescription as the signal that something has been accomplished in a medical office visit. So far, we have not happened upon any other action that confers on the encounter the same sense of accomplishment and closure.

Perhaps things need to change for our children's health.

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