Editor’s Note: This is the second in a short Health Tips series geared to help readers understand the role of antibiotics.
The unnecessary use of antibiotics is a universal problem in our country. Over prescription of these drugs is responsible for the evolution of many drug resistant bacteria. In addition, antibiotics occasionally cause direct harm by triggering an allergic reaction. Many of us have experienced or witnessed a painful rash from a common antibiotic.
Yet, parents expect to receive an antibiotic prescription when they take a sick child to their pediatrician regardless of the actual need. In turn, doctors know that this expectation exists and that they will have an unhappy family, even after a prolonged discussion, if an antibiotic prescription is not written.
In truth, there are gray areas. Times for which an antibiotic is unlikely to be necessary but enough uncertainty exists to warrant the effort. This article is not designed to address those situations but rather to give you confidence that antibiotics are rarely warranted in babies for a "sinus infection".
Why is this so? Because the sinuses typically associated with infection are not yet developed. At birth through the first several years of life, the sinuses on either side of the nose are the size of a pea. The sinuses in the forehead do not begin to develop until age four and cannot be seen on x-ray until age seven. Yet, you should not be surprised if your otherwise well educated pediatrician pushes on your baby’s forehead; makes this diagnosis; and reaches for the prescription pad.
When a diagnosis of an infection is made for an area of the body that does not yet exist in your child, you can have great confidence that an antibiotic is unnecessary and unwarranted.
Part 1 - Bacteria, Viruses, and Computers
Part 3 - Treating the Common Cold