I HAPPENED to have a discussion recently with a group of friends, some of them were mothers with young children. The rhetoric goes around the same topics, the newest fashion, the lost friends and children. The latter kept my attention and actually was quite the longest topic they discussed about; we discussed about kids and diseases and the newest trend about the antibiotics for any disease a child comes up with.
What the mothers should know, and I guess it’s also for public importance is: not every cough, not every sneeze, not every harsh breathing means using an antibiotic!
Many of the infections of childhood children have revolve around the same things: Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, some malaria, some gastroenteritis or, but not everywhere, skin infections. Many of the infections children present with are viral, which means, at least in terms of treatment, that they are self-resolving.
The adaptive or acquired immunity starts to kick off in early childhood. It is said, in body immunity that this particular kind of defence has a slow onset and has to be triggered by a disease condition. It is different from the innate immunity in terms of efficiency, duration and long term use. The innate immunity is harsh and does not hold memory of any disease attack. The adaptive immunity, which comes after a disease, has memory; this means, it can remember a past infection and sort of provide immunity to a second attack by the same disease.
Antibiotics are chemical products that are made to support the immune system while working against bacteria. Some kill the germs and some others block the development of bacterial DNA. In their existence, they have specificities, and power such as to kill a particular kind of germs and be ineffective to another. Antibiotics can be compared to weapons of different calibers and size but against a common race of beings: the bacteria.
In as much as bacteria are concerned, they may develop resistance to a category of antibiotic drug, just because they get used to it. The resistance might be a defence mechanism from bacteria species like a mutation in its DNA providing them a kind of security from any antibacterial drug attack. Which, is true in real life, someone cannot be shot everyday by the same gun; he might find a way of defending himself!
The errors medical professionals are committing nowadays are that there is an over use and prescription of antibiotics for infections that do not always need drugs. Sometimes these drugs are prescribed to appease a worried mother, which does not have to happen that way.
Unfortunately, these drugs happen at times to be heavy vis a vis a particular infection, which, let’s say might need an antibiotic.
Just imagine a gang attack in a neighborhood to which the security forces respond with an atomic bomb! How heavy the loss would be? In the same way, heavy antibiotics, which are not always needed, may damage the normal cellular function, not only by their actions, but also by the subsequent side effects. They alter the ever growing adaptive immunity of the young ones and yield a high toxicity action when used inappropriately.
Giving a chance to your child’s immunity to grow does not mean however to leave them sick at home. Getting a medical advice is of great importance. They might not prescribe the medications one would love to see, but at least, there will be less damage when getting the right medications for the right things.
So, dear mothers: do not be intimidated by fancy names of drugs; your child does not necessarily need them to relieve their condition.
The writer is Medical Doctor at Ruhengeri Hospital