Antibiotics are lifesaving medicine, but nearly 70,000 children end up in emergency rooms each year because of the side effects of taking them. While antibiotics are generally considered safe, Consumer Reports outlines what parents should know about reactions to antibiotics and when to get your child to the ER.
Sofia Santiago's daughter, Lilah, was prescribed penicillin after her second birthday for an ear infection. The penicillin caused a rash all over her body.
"She had been on antibiotics a lot, never had a reaction until this time for whatever reason," Santiago said. "In the bath, noticed she had really red, really angry hives from head to toe and it was the first time we had ever seen this reaction in her."
Sofia was told that her daughter has an allergy to penicillin and she was given prednisone for the symptoms.
"Most reactions that kids have to antibiotics are minor; that's something like a rash," said Consumer Reports Health Editor Lauren Friedman. "But kids can actually have a serious reaction to antibiotics, and that's when we see something like anaphylactic shock, and that's that a life-threatening allergic reaction that we usually associated with things like peanuts or bee stings."
A CDC study found that up to 81 percent of visits kids made to the ER due to antibiotic reactions were for mild allergic events like rashes. However, you should take your child to the hospital immediately if severe symptoms arise.
"Children 2 and under are the most likely to end up in the ER with an adverse reaction to an antibiotic," Friedman said. "But with children of any age if you see serious symptoms like trouble breathing or a weak pulse, seizure, a loss of consciousness or even severe hives, you want to take them to the ER right away."
Even with possible side effects, antibiotics are generally considered safe. When used properly, these life-saving drugs far outweigh the risks.
Consumer Reports says because of the possible side effects of antibiotics, it's important of talk to your child's pediatrician about whether an antibiotic is even necessary. Antibiotics should never be used for viral illnesses, like colds.
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Consumer Reports: Antiobiotic side effects in children