General advice about antibiotics

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General advice about antibiotics

This leaflet gives general information about antibiotics for children. Leaflets on individual antibiotics are available on the Medicines for Children website.

This leaflet has been written specifically about the use of antibiotics in children. The information may differ from that provided by the manufacturer of your child’s antibiotic. Please read this leaflet carefully. 

If your child has ever had a reaction to any antibiotic, check with your doctor that your child can have the antibiotic medicine before giving it.

Why is it important for my child to take an antibiotic?

If your child is prescribed an antibiotic, it is important that they take this medicine so that it kills the harmful bacteria and gets rid of, or prevents, the infection.

How much antibiotic should I give and when should I give it?

  • Your doctor will work out the amount of medicine (the dose) that is right for your child. The dose will be shown on the medicine label.
  • Your doctor or pharmacist will also tell you how often you need to give the medicine. 

It is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions about how much and when to give.

What if I forget to give it or give too much?

  • Antibiotics work best if given regularly. Antibiotics are unlikely to cause any problems if you give an extra dose by mistake.
  • If you are concerned that you have forgotten to give several doses or given your child too much, contact your doctor or local NHS services (111 in England and Scotland; 0845 4647 in Wales). Have the medicine or packaging with you if you telephone for advice.

Can other medicines be given at the same time? 

  • You can give your child medicines that contain paracetamol, unless your doctor has told you not to.
  • Some antibiotics should not be taken with some common medicines that you get on prescription. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving any other medicines to your child. This includes herbal or complementary medicines, or medicines that you can buy over the counter.

General advice about antibiotics 

  • It is important that your child completes the course of antibiotic. This means that they must take the medicine for the number of days that the doctor has told you to, or until all the medicine has been taken. If you stop giving the antibiotic too soon, the troublesome bacteria that are left will start to multiply again, and may cause another infection. There is also a risk that these bacteria will be ‘resistant’ to (no longer be killed by) the first antibiotic. This means that it might not work next time, and your child might need a different antibiotic which may not work as well or may cause more side-effects.
  • Children are sometimes sick (vomit) or get diarrhoea when taking antibiotics. Encourage them to drink water to replace the fluid they have lost. If it is severe or your child is drowsy, contact your doctor.
  • Do not give your child any medicine to stop the diarrhoea unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Try to give the medicine at about the same times each day, to help you remember, and to make sure that there is the right amount of medicine in your child’s body to kill the bacteria.
  • Only give this medicine to your child for their current infection.
  • Never save medicine for future illnesses. Give old or unused antibiotics to your pharmacist to dispose of.
  • Only give the antibiotic to the child for whom it was prescribed. Never give it to anyone else, even if their condition appears to be the same, as this could do harm.

If you think someone else may have taken the medicine by accident, contact your doctor for advice.

Where I should keep the antibiotic? 

  • Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you where to keep the medicine, for example, if it needs to be kept in a fridge.
  • Make sure that children cannot see or reach the medicine.
  • Keep the medicine in the container it came in.

Who to contact for more information 

Your child’s doctor, pharmacist or nurse will be able to give you more information about your child’s antibiotic.

You can also get useful information from: 
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