White children have a far higher risk of becoming resistant to essential antibiotics than others because they are prescribed unnecessary medication at twice the rate, a new report has revealed.
The findings, published on Tuesday, shed light on a bitterly ironic catch to the fact that caucasians typically have better access to healthcare than blacks and Latinos.
The study by the Children’s National Health System looked at the differences in care that minorities and white children receive in emergency departments.
It concluded that antibiotics are too often prescribed for viral infections – despite the fact that they cannot be treated with antibiotics.
The research comes as the world’s health authorities are calling for doctors to consider alternative treatments as life-threatening superbugs become increasingly resistant to our most reliable form of medication.
White children are more likely to be prescribed antibiotics to treat viral infections, which cannot be treated by antibiotics. This is dangerous because it makes them more likely to become resistant to antibiotics, which are used to treat a number of illnesses (file photo)
HOW INFECTIONS ARE BECOMING MORE RESISTANT TO ANTIBIOTICS
Bacteria will eventually find ways to resist man-made antibiotics, meaning that humans can no longer successfully use them to treat illnesses.
The CDC has warned that nobody is completely safe from antibiotic-resistant infections.
These infections are hard to treat. Often the treatments for them are expensive or toxic.
The CDC has given tips on how to protect yourself from antibiotic-resistant infections:
- Wash your hands to reduce the spread of respiratory and diarrheal illnesses
- Make sure you have up-to-date vaccines
- Make sure you are drinking and using clean water
- Reduce your chances of contracting or spreading sexually transmitted diseases
The study’s researchers looked at about 40,000 cases of viral infections among children in seven different pediatric emergency rooms in 2013.
The average age of the children studied was a little over three years old and about three percent of them were given oral, intramuscular or intravenous antibiotics – either in the emergency room or when they were discharged – to treat viral infections.
About 4 percent of the white patients were wrongly prescribed them, compared to 2.6 percent of Latino patients and 1.9 percent of black patients.
Respiratory tract infections are one of the top ailments that cause parents to rush children to emergency rooms, according to study researcher Dr Monika K. Goyal.
She said that over-prescribing antibiotics to treat these infections is a ‘rampant’ problem.
Antibiotics have been used to treat illnesses such as strep throat since the 1940s but experts warn that antibiotic use among children needs to be lessened.
The CDC has said that two million people in the US are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year.
Dr Goyal is relieved that less than 3 percent of children are wrongly prescribed antibiotics.
‘It may come down to factors as simple as providers or parents believing that “more is better”, despite the clear public health risks of prescribing children antibiotics unnecessarily,’ Dr Goyal explained.
Dr Goyal spoke about the pros and cons of the study’s results.
‘It is encouraging that just 2.6 percent of children treated in pediatric emergency departments across the nation received antibiotics for viral acute respiratory tract infections since antibiotics are ineffective in treating viral infections,’ she said.
She added: ‘However, it is troubling to see such persistent racial and ethnic differences in how medications are prescribed, in this case in the emergency department,’ she said.
Previous studies have revealed other disparities in the healthcare treatments that children of different races receive.
Minority children are not given scans for head trauma or radiology, laboratory and pain management tests as often as white children are, according to the study.
Researchers are calling for more answers as to why children of different races are treated differently in emergency rooms.
Dr Goyal, who has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the problem, said: ‘In addition to providing the best evidence-based care, we also strive to provide equitable care to all patients.’
‘Unfortunately, today’s results provide further evidence of racial and ethnic differences in providing health care in the emergency department setting,’ she added.