US doctors are still over prescribing antibiotics to babies, a new study reveals.

A vast majority (97 per cent) of 400 doctors in Georgia, surveyed by telephone and questionnaire, agreed that overuse of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance. However, the doctors’ prescribing habits for children aged 12-72 months revealed inconsistencies with this view and with published recommendations on the diagnosis and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections.

For example, 86 per cent said they prescribed antibiotics for bronchitis regardless of the duration of the cough, and 42 per cent admitted to prescribing antibiotics for the common cold. Yet, it is well known by doctors that colds are caused by a virus, which does not respond to antibiotics.

The practices of family physicians were more likely than paediatricians to be at odds with published recommendations. Family physicians were also more likely to forego laboratory testing to confirm a diagnosis.

Not surprisingly, those with the highest antibiotic prescribing rates also had the most return visits 30 per cent more than those who tended to use antibiotics more sparingly (Pediatrics, 1999; 104: 1251-7).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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