Important for parents to understand antibiotics are not the answer to many common childhood illnesses, says RCGP

Publication date: 13 August 2019

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs has responded to research from the British Journal of General Practice on antibiotics prescriptions for children.

She said: "GPs are acutely aware of the potential dangers of prescribing of antibiotics when they are not absolutely necessary – and how this can contribute to growing resistance to these important drugs, which is a global concern.

"This research drives home how important it is for patients – and particularly the parents of young children – to understand that antibiotics do not work for every infection and should not be prescribed for the most common childhood conditions such as colds, coughs, ear infections or sort throats which are usually caused by viruses.

"There is a very difficult balance to be struck as antibiotics can be lifesaving drugs for severe infection related conditions such as sepsis – but instances where children who have an infection really do need antibiotics should be relatively uncommon. We would certainly welcome more research into rapid, definitive tests to establish if an infection is viral or bacterial - and for GPs to have easy access to them - which would certainly help in these situations.

"Ultimately, parents know their children better than anyone and if they are concerned about a persistent medical problem or illness then they should see their GP. But we would urge them to trust their GP if they advise that antibiotics are not necessary.

"GPs are highly trained prescribers and will not suggest any course of medication unnecessarily. Antibiotics will only be prescribed for patients of any age in situations where this is appropriate, and as determined by a full assessment of the patient and their medical history."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The embargoed link to the BJGP study can be found at:

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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