Antibiotic risk for children

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2005, 12:00am

Survey reveals parent ignorance about medication

Children are being put at risk because most Hong Kong parents are ignorant about the use of antibiotics, with 60 per cent unfamiliar with the problem of drug resistance, according to a survey by the Paediatric Foundation.

Youngsters risked being overdosed with antibiotics or did not finish a full course of treatment, a paediatrician warned yesterday, adding that the threat of drug resistance was increased in the case of either event.

The survey of 2,266 parents with children under age six found that 77 per cent did not know antibiotics were used to treat bacterial infections such as E. coli and salmonella but not viral infections, including flu. The survey was carried out in June.

Of parents questioned, 10 per cent said they had urged doctors to prescribe antibiotics to their children, while 30 per cent said they would not let their children complete a full course of antibiotics once their symptoms started to disappear.

Paediatric Foundation director Ng Yin-ming warned that some parents even believed it was bad practice for doctors to be reluctant to prescribe antibiotics. Dr Ng is also a public doctor.

As many as 57 per cent of parents said they had never heard of antibiotic resistance and 39 per cent did not know its side effects, which include allergies, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and rashes.

He said parents should know about the possible side effects to avoid unnecessary panic.

'In the case of side effects happening, parents should bring their children back to the doctors who would usually stop using antibiotics in treatment,' he said.

Dr Ng particularly warned parents against 'shopping around' for doctors as this would increase the risk of drug overdose when doctors did not know the patient's medical history.

'For example, Doctor A uses antibiotics for three days,' Dr Ng said. 'When parents take their children to another doctor, he may also prescribe antibiotics if he is not informed by parents of the medical history. Overdose would also increase the risk of drug resistance.

'So it is important to promote the culture of having family doctors who would know a full picture of the medical history of patients.'