Antibiotics prescribed during 21% of pediatric ambulatory visits; 50% were broad-spectrum

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for children with conditions for which they provide no benefit, including viral respiratory infections.

The researchers used the National Ambulatory and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care surveys from 2006 to 2008, which are representative of ambulatory care visits in the United States.

Antibiotics were prescribed during 21% of pediatric ambulatory visits; 50% were broad-spectrum, most commonly macrolides. Respiratory conditions accounted for >70% of visits in which antibiotics were prescribed.

The authors concluded that broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing in ambulatory pediatrics is extremely common and frequently inappropriate.

Cough is one of the common reasons for unnecessary antibiotic prescription. As you can see from the diagram below, the differential diagnosis of chronic cough is broad and includes asthma and other conditions in which antibiotics are ineffective:

Differential diagnosis of cough, a simple mnemonic is GREAT BAD CAT TOM. Click here to enlarge the image: (GERD (reflux), Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR), Rhinitis (both allergic and non-allergic) with post-nasal drip (upper airway cough syndrome), Embolism, e.g. PE in adults, Asthma, TB (tuberculosis), Bronchitis, pneumonia, pertussis, Aspiration, e.g foreign body in children, Drugs, e.g. ACE inhibitor, CF in children, Cardiogenic, e.g. mitral stenosis in adults, Achalasia in adults, Thyroid enlargement, e.g. goiter, "Thoughts" (psychogenic), Other causes, Malignancy, e.g. lung cancer in adults).


Antibiotic Prescribing in Ambulatory Pediatrics in the United States. Adam L. Hersh, MD, PhDa, Daniel J. Shapiro, BAb, Andrew T. Pavia, MDa, Samir S. Shah, MD, MSCE. Pediatrics Vol. 128 No. 6 December 1, 2011, pp. 1053 -1061, (doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1337).

Image source: Wikipedia, GNU Free Documentation License.

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