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© 2016 by Mercer Island Pediatrics.

Does my child need antibiotics?
 
There are three types of infections that effect humans: Viral, bacterial, and parasitic. Only bacterial and parasitic infections are treated with antibiotics, and not in all circumstances. Read below to see why.
 
Viruses are primarily transmitted by inhalation or being bitten by infected insects or parasites. Respiratory infections of the upper airways, nose and throat are the most common forms of viral infections. Viruses can target specific cells in the body, such as those in the upper respiratory tract or the skin. An example of a local infection is conjunctivitis, or "pink eye." Viruses can  also be systemic, affecting many different parts of the body and causing symptoms such as runny nose, sinus congestion, cough, and body aches. Some viruses are more common in or even specific to certain age groups, such as those that cause croup in babies and young children. 
 
Bacterial infections are primarily trasmitted by ingestion of contaminated food or water, by inhalation, through physical contact with animals or infected persons, or from one part of the body where they are harmless to another part where they cause illness. and, contrary to popular belief, can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on how they interact with their host. A relatively small number of bacteria causes diseases in humans. Some of the most deadly diseases and devastating epidemics in human history have been caused by bacteria, including dysentery, plague, diphtheria, and tubercolosis. Some bacterial infections are common in childhood, such as strep throat and ear infections. Bacterial infections typically present with localized redness and heat, inflammation (swelling) and pain. Bacterial infections tend to present localized pain more frequently than viral infections (not always). Even with a throat infection, a bacterial one will usually have more severe pain on one side of the throat. If there is pain in just one ear, it is more likely to be a bacterial infection. These drugs either kill the bacteria or prevent them from reproducing.