Amoxicillin shows little help in treating children with chest colds

BRISTOL, England — One of the most common illnesses treated by primary care doctors among children is a chest cold. It has long been debated whether or not antibiotics are successful in treating children with chest infections. Now, one recent study concludes that amoxicillin, an antibiotic commonly prescribed in these cases, have little to no effect in children with chest colds.

Researchers at the University of Southampton tested if amoxicillin lowered the length of symptoms in children. The study included 432 children ages six months to 12 years old with uncomplicated chest infections. Half were given a placebo and the other amoxicillin, three times a day for one week. Parents kept a diary to log their child’s daily symptoms, as well as a physical exam at the start and end of the week.

Results show that amoxicillin wasn’t very remarkable at helping the patients feel better any sooner. The authors say that children taking the antibiotic recovered just 13% faster. Ultimately, the time needed to take care of the children was similar in both groups. “Children given amoxicillin for chest infections where the doctor does not think the child has pneumonia do not recover much more quickly,” concludes Paul Little, the lead author of the study, in a statement.

“Using amoxicillin to treat chest infections in children not suspected of having pneumonia is not likely to help and could be harmful. Overuse of antibiotics, which is dominated by prescribing antibiotics in primary care, particularly when they are ineffective, can lead to side effects and the development of antibiotic resistance,” comments Little.

“Our results suggest that unless pneumonia is suspected, clinicians should provide ‘safety-netting’ advice such as explaining what illness course to expect and when it would be necessary to re-attend but not prescribe antibiotics for most children presenting with chest infections,” adds Alastiar Haye, a co-author on the study.

This study is published in The Lancet.

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