If your child is sick and you think he or she needs prescription medication, then you should come in to the office to be seen. Making a decision about what medicine might be helpful for your child’s problem is a big part of what my job is all about, and to do that well I need to examine the patient.
Many times, all that’s needed is a little bit of time for your child to get over the problem. Colds, diarrhea and rashes are all common problems that almost always resolve on their own. Many illnesses – probably the majority of infections that children get, including most longer-term illnesses like the flu – are caused by viruses. If that’s what your child has, antibiotics will have no effect at all. There are a few “anti-viral” medications which we use, but generally viral infections are not treatable with specific medications. The best we can do is treat the symptoms and wait for the illness itself to run its course -- that is, for the body’s own immune system to fight it it off.
Fortunately, most of the viral infections that we have to cope with in pediatrics in Los Angeles are relatively mild and not really dangerous, although they certainly can be a big nuisance, with fever, rash, discomfort, and so on while you’re waiting for it to go away. And unfortunately, it’s not so unusual for there to be some degree of diagnostic uncertainty about whether a particular person has an infection caused by a virus or caused by a bacteria.
Usuallly though, colds, coughs, vomiting and diarrhea are likely to be viral, ear infections are usually bacterial, pneumonia can be either or both, urinary tract infections are usually bacterial, and most rashes come from viruses. Eye infections can go either way.