Antibiotics 101: What you need to know

By: Tiger Clinic Pediatrics

Let’s revisit antibiotics for a minute. We know when your child is sick, you want to do everything possible to make them better. Sometimes it requires antibiotics, but more often, it does not. We realize for parents this can be frustrating and confusing. Here are some of the most common questions we get asked about antibiotics:


The answer is probably no. Childhood illness are mostly caused by viruses, up to 70% of the time. Viral illnesses, like colds, usually go away without treatment in a week or two. Even though an antibiotic is not prescribed, we still treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medications and provide some relief.

Viruses cause common illnesses that antibiotics CANNOT treat like: 

  • Colds

  • Influenza (the flu) 

  • Runny noses

  • Most coughs

  • Most bronchitis

  • Most sore throats

  • Most sinus infections

  • Some ear infections

Taking antibiotics for viral illnesses: 

  • Will NOT cure your child’s illness

  • Will NOT help your child feel better

  • Will NOT keep others from catching your child’s illness


If your child has a bacterial infection, antibiotics will help. Antibiotics kill bacteria and cure infections caused by bacteria, such as strep throat, some ear infections, and certain pneumonias. When we prescribe antibiotics:

  • Most bacterial infections improve within 48 to 72 hours of starting an antibiotic. If your child's symptoms get worse or do not improve within 72 hours, call us.

  • Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed. If your child stops taking the antibiotic too soon, the infection may not be treated completely and the symptoms may start again. 

  • Throw leftover antibiotics away. Never save antibiotics for future illnesses, do not take antibiotics prescribed for others, and do not share antibiotics with others.

  • Antibiotics can cause side effects, like diarrhea or vomiting, and about 1-5% of children have an allergy to an antibiotic. Some of these allergic reactions can be serious and life threatening.


Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic. In other words, the bacteria are not killed, and their growth is not stopped. Eventually, resistant bacteria survive exposure to the antibiotic and continue to multiply in the body, potentially causing more harm and spreading to other people. Antibiotics that used to work, no longer will, and you may require hospitalization with IV antibiotics to treat common infections.


Perhaps the single most important action needed to greatly slow down the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant infections is to change the way antibiotics are used. Up to 50% of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary and inappropriate, and makes everyone less safe. Stopping even some of the unnecessary use of antibiotics would help greatly in reducing the spread of resistant bacteria. This commitment to use antibiotics appropriately and safely is known as antibiotic stewardship. This means only prescribing antibiotics when they are necessary, like a bacterial infection not a virus. Taking your antibiotics as prescribed and completing the full course of treatment will help to prevent antibiotic resistance.


Modern healthcare is a business like any other which relies on customer satisfaction. If a patient-customer strongly believes that they need antibiotics and does not receive them, they might not return to that healthcare provider because they did not get what they wanted. Some for-profit healthcare facilities, like urgent care centers, are 100% customer-satisfaction driven even if that means prescribing antibiotics inappropriately and against evidenced-based treatment guidelines. Urgent care centers assume more liability and are more likely to over-treat because they do not have the same follow-up practices as a primary care provider.

The Tiger Clinic and Wimberley Pediatrics aims to give our patients the safest and best treatment, which often involves less antibiotic prescriptions and longer conversations about the appropriate use of antibiotics. The easy answer would be to prescribe antibiotics, but that is not in the best interest for the safety and health of our patients and their families. Antibiotics are not without side effects and can cause patient harm. Through careful questioning and physical exam, the correct diagnosis and treatment plan will be developed.