WHO data is worrying
According to 2021 figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO), bacterial pneumonia and bloodstream infections are among the main causes of mortality in children under five years of age. Approximately 30% of newborns with blood infections die due to resistance to several first-line antibiotics.
All around the world, Inadequate access to antibiotics kills about six million people annually, including one million children who die from preventable generalized infection (sepsis or septicemia) and pneumonia.
Another problem is counterfeiting, which contributes to the increase in microbial resistance, as well as low-quality products, as they do not fulfill the expected functions of a medicine. According to the WHO, between 72,000 and 169,000 children die annually from pneumonia due to counterfeit antibiotics.
Babies and children still have an immature immune system and, therefore, are not yet able to adequately defend themselves against invading bacteria, making them more susceptible to germs.
Antibiotics are not always necessary
Although antibiotics are a strong ally, it is important to pay attention to the correct choice of medication and its dosage. This control is not always possible in the case of antibiotic syrups, which are more commonly prescribed to babies and children than tablets. After all, convincing a small child to take a spoonful of syrup is much easier than making them swallow a pill.
In cases of serious bacterial infection, such as a streptococcal infection, a urinary tract infection or a respiratory tract infection, antibiotics are the most appropriate treatment, inhibiting the growth and reproduction of bacteria and killing them. Its action is usually fast and the effects generally begin to appear between 24 and 48 hours.
A very common infection among babies and children is acute otitis media, which causes swelling of the mucous membranes of the ear, especially in a connecting passage that is still very thin and short in the first years of life, which runs from the Eustachian tube to the throat. This obstructs the flow of secretions and puts pressure on the eardrum, causing ear pain. Antibiotics can relieve symptoms relatively quickly.
What are the alternatives to antibiotics?
From the experts’ point of view, there are no reliable alternatives. For some infectious diseases, however, herbs with antimicrobial properties may help. In the case of respiratory tract infections, for example, saline solutions can alleviate symptoms.
But antibiotics are often still the most reliable resource. An example is sepsis, which must be treated immediately. If this does not happen, in the worst case scenario there is a risk of septic shock with organ failure, which can even lead to death.
Sepsis can occur when an external wound becomes infected. If infectious agents enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system from there, the infection runs the risk of spreading throughout the body, leading to a rapid worsening of health. Such cases, however, are quite rare.
The importance of a good diagnosis
Not everyone knows that antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and are not useful for fighting a viral infection. This is why the first step of treatment should be a correct diagnosis.?
The problem is particularly dramatic in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In Indonesia and the Philippines, for example, thousands of children die every year because they do not have all the antibiotics available in Europe or because the antibiotics they have access to have become ineffective.
This only reinforces the importance of correct diagnosis: identification of the pathogen is essential, and must be accompanied by sensitivity tests to the chosen medication. Finally, the prescribed dose must have the smallest spectrum possible.