Flu or Flu-like illness in chronically ill or disabled children

Parents views on the benefits of antibiotics

Children with a long term medical condition or disability may develop bacterial infections, such as chest infections and ear infections, when they have flu or flu-like illness. Antibiotics can be very effective to treat these bacterial infections. Parents were often aware of wider concerns about antibiotic resistant infections (see ‘Parents concerns about taking antibiotics’) and knew that antibiotics were not effective in treating viruses. However, having a child with a long term medical condition or disability meant they were willing to accept an antibiotic to prevent their child becoming seriously ill when they had flu or flu-like illness. 

Some parents we spoke to said that making the decision to give their child antibiotics was sometimes “a difficult decision to make.” But mostly parents accepted that their children needed to take antibiotics when they had flu or flu-like illness and any concerns they had about taking them were outweighed by wanting their child to be well again.
Some parents believed there were benefits in treating their children with antibiotics early during an episode of flu or flu-like illness. Clare and Naomi both felt that early antibiotic treatment would help their children get better quicker. A quicker recovery reduced the amount of time children missed at school. Georgina thought that treating Alessio with antibiotics early may prevent him from needing to go to hospital.
Sarah and Nia had experienced occasions where their children had delayed getting antibiotic treatment and they had become very ill without it. They also feel there are benefits to giving their children antibiotics early.
Other parents thought it was not beneficial to give their child antibiotics early every time they developed flu or flu-like illness and they would rather wait to see how the illness affected their child. Sharon and Clare felt that their children had stronger immune systems now they were older and they were less likely to develop serious complications during flu or flu-like illness. When Kate’s son had a chest infection he got better without antibiotic treatment.
Harriet, and others, who had more than one child said that their views about antibiotics prescribing are different when it comes to a sibling without a long term medical condition.
Taking antibiotics to prevent infections

Some children took a low dose of antibiotic every day to prevent bacterial infections. This is known as antibiotic prophylaxis. Parents of these children said they had seen an improvement in their children’s health.
Anita, whose two year old son has Down’s Syndrome, had heard about antibiotics prophylaxis from other parents and would like Oliver to be prescribed it.

Some parents did not see the need to give their children antibiotics as a preventative treatment but would accept them on a case by case episode of flu-like illness. Jo said that when her daughter, Evie, was very young she was put on antibiotics as a ‘precaution’ but that she no longer needs that treatment now she is four years old.  

See ‘What are antibiotics and why are they used (or not) in children with flu-like illness - A doctor speaks’, ‘Parents concerns about taking antibiotics’, ‘Side effects of antibiotics’.

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