A new report shows that antibiotics may be responsible for a concerning diarrhea outbreak among children. The report is the work of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which says the illness is caused by an infection called Clostridium difficile.
The problem is caused when antibiotics throw off a delicate balance between natural microorganisms in the human digestive tract. Many of these microorganisms are responsible for ensuring healthy digestion and protecting the stomach, intestines, and other vital organs.
But the CDC says that this balance can be disturbed by antibiotics, which often target the “good” microorganisms as well as the “bad” ones.
The result can be Clostridium difficile or a number of other illnesses that target the stomach and intestines.
The CDC is pointing a collective finger at physicians who may be incorrectly prescribing antibiotics and thereby causing a Clostridium difficile infection.
“When antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly, our children are needlessly put at risk for health problems including C. difficile infection and dangerous antibiotic resistant infections,” noted CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden.
Studies by the CDC show that nearly three in every four children who came down with a Clostridium difficile infection were prescribed antibiotics in the weeks before. In many cases, these antibiotics were prescribed to help deal with an ear, sinus, or upper respiratory infection.
Clostridium difficile is not rare, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. The CDC says that there are roughly 250,000 infections each year, with 14,000 of those infections ending in death.
The CDC says that infection rates are currently higher than they’ve ever been before. It’s estimated that one in every 17 children will be infected with the bacterium this year.
So, how can parents help deal with this rising issue?
Doctors say it’s time for parents and physicians to think critically about giving antibiotics to kids.
“As both a doctor and a mom, I know how difficult it is to see your child suffer with something like an ear infection,” notes the CDC’s Dr. Lauri Hicks.
“Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. I urge parents to work with their child’s doctor to find the best treatment for the illness, which may just be providing symptom relief.”