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Dubai: Nearly 40 per cent of parents in the UAE had never heard of antibiotic resistance and thought that in the last 12 months antibiotics given to their children have actually proven to be helpful, a survey conducted by a city hospital has revealed.

The Mediclinic City Hospital survey on antibiotic use in children found a shocking lack of awareness about the abuse of antibiotics and resistance that it creates with misuse. Sixteen per cent of parents interviewed felt that doctors prescribe antibiotics whenever their child has fever whereas 60 per cent felt that antibiotics were prescribed for conditions other than fever, cough cold and ear ache. A majority did not notice any side effects in their child from antibiotics in last 12 months.

The survey, conducted by Dr Mudit Kumar, Consultant Paediatrician from Mediclinic Parkview Hospital, Dubai, was approved by the Dubai Scientific Research and Ethics Committee of DHA. It was conducted among parents of children visiting the paediatric emergency department and paediatric outpatient clinic of the hospital. It covered a sample of 377 residents from 41 different nationalities.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Dr Kumar said it was important that people have greater awareness about antibiotics and their abuse. “Antibiotic resistance is a major health problem worldwide. For the last three decades no new antibiotics have been developed so their use and efficacy is limited. Doctors need to use other medicines before prescribing antibiotics. If a bacteria or an organism develops resistance to an antibiotic, then we have no defence. We have seen that in certain kinds of bacterium in the case of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, antibiotic resistance can prove to be dangerous and even fatal.”

Dr Kumar said both doctors and parents need to be educated about the judicious use of antibiotics. “Most parents are not aware that antibiotics are prescribed only in case of a bacterial infections and are not effective to combat viral infections. For viral infections it is important to get your child immunised. In case of viral infections now we have a quick diagnosis system of taking a throat swab and once a viral infection is confirmed, the patient can be started on anti virals.”

Dr Kumar quoted a British study that now challenges the traditional belief that patients need to be prescribed five-10 days courses of antibiotics. “The study points out that antibiotic courses should not be beyond three-four days as the patient’s immune system should be allowed to kick in to counter the condition.

What do you need to avoid?

• Do not order antibiotics over the counter. Despite efforts by ministry of health to check sale of antibiotics over the counter, expatriates tend to buy antibiotics in bulk from their home countries and use these indiscriminately. This can cause widespread antibiotic resistance.

• Do not self medicate. Consult a doctor in case of an infection and undergo tests to know if the condition is caused by a virus or bacteria before ingesting antibiotics, and take appropriate treatment.

• Don’t opt for antibiotics as the first line of defence. This is something that health care professionals need to know. They must first prescribe paracetamols, anti-histamines and also advise patients to go in for steam inhalation and saline water gargles in case of a bacterial throat infection before prescribing a course of antibiotic. The body must use its own line of defence; an antibiotic can be prescribed only when the first line of defence fails.