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Parents urged stop asking { September 18 2003 }

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Published September 18, 2003
Parents urged to stop asking for antibiotics

By Daniel Q. Haney
Associated Press

Chicago The government has a new strategy for reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics: Persuade parents to stop pestering pediatricians to write prescriptions for runny noses.
Health officials have already hammered on doctors to quit dispensing antibiotics in situations where they are practically guaranteed not to work, such as common colds. A straight-to-Mom-and-Dad campaign is next.

The effort, announced Wednesday, is built around public service ads featuring pictures of cranky-looking kids and the headline: "Snort. Sniffle. Sneeze. No antibiotics please."

Overuse of antibiotics has led to the evolution of germs that are resistant to standard medicines, such as penicillin. Anyone who has recently taken antibiotics has an increased risk of coming down with a resistant infection.

Earlier campaigns, aimed at health professionals, already seem to have paid off. Various studies suggest that use of antibiotic pills has fallen about 25 percent in the past decade, and the decline has been even greater in pediatric medicine.

Still, officials say, there is room for improvement. The CDC's Dr. Richard Besser said a study in 1995 found that over 40 percent of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions were for viral infections.

Antibiotics kill bacteria. They are powerless against viruses, which cause the common cold, among other things. Most of these common viruses cannot be cured with any drug. Only time will make them go away.

Nevertheless, many people expect, or demand, an antibiotic if they feel under the weather, even if their illness is clearly viral. Doctors often oblige, because it is easier than arguing.

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