TUESDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- Although guidelines don't recommend antibiotics for asthma, almost 1 million children with the respiratory condition are prescribed the medications each year in the United States, a new study finds.
"We are trying to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, and this suggests that we as pediatricians are prescribing them way too often," said lead researcher Dr. Ian M. Paul, an associate professor of pediatrics at the College of Medicine of Pennsylvania State University in Hershey.
Why doctors are prescribing antibiotics for asthma is not clear, Paul said. One reason might be that doctors treating severe asthma attacks "feel the need to cover all their bases by also prescribing antibiotics," he suggested.
Sometimes parents may ask doctors to give their child antibiotics, but it doesn't seem to be a big factor, Paul noted. "It probably exists to some degree in clinical practice, but I don't think it happens all that frequently -- certainly not in one in every six visits for asthma," he said.
"The one encouraging finding was, when asthma education was delivered as part of the visit, antibiotics were less likely to be prescribed," he added. When asthma education was not part of the visit, 19 percent of the time antibiotics were prescribed, compared with 11 percent when asthma education was given.
"This suggests that we can educate families and patients and explain the causes of asthma and, hopefully, reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing," Paul said.
The dangers of overprescribing antibiotics are that it promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and there are side effects for the drugs themselves, Paul pointed out.
The report was published in the May 23 online edition of Pediatrics.
For the study, Paul's team used data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys and National Hos
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