Children with asthma are being prescribed unnecessary antibiotics

September 11, 2017

Children with asthma are more likely to be prescribed antibiotics even though there is no evidence that they need them any more than children without asthma, according to research to be presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress 2017.

Overuse of antibiotics is leading to a rise in drug-resistant infections and unnecessary use in could leave them more at risk of a future that is difficult to treat.

The researchers say their results may indicate that asthma symptoms are being mistaken for a , or that the antibiotics are being given as a preventative measure, even though guidelines do not support this.

The study will be presented by Dr Esmé Baan from the department of medical informatics, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She explains: "Asthma is a common and ongoing condition, and it has symptoms that could be mistaken for a respiratory tract infection. However, international and national guidelines clearly state that antibiotics should not be given for a deterioration in asthma symptoms, because this is rarely associated with a bacterial infection.

"Inappropriate use of antibiotics can be bad for individual patients and the entire population, and makes it harder to control the spread of untreatable infections."

The study included 1.5 million children from the UK, including around 150,000 with asthma, and a further 375,000 from The Netherlands, including around 30,000 with asthma. The researchers compared antibiotic prescription data for children with and without asthma and compared the situation in The Netherlands with that in the UK.

Both The Netherlands and the UK follow the same international guidelines on , which state that antibiotic use for is generally not indicated.

The researchers found that children with asthma were approximately 1.6 times more likely to be prescribed antibiotics, compared to children who do not have asthma. They also found that antibiotic prescription rates were almost two-fold higher in the UK overall. In both countries, amoxicillin was the most commonly used antibiotic.

In The Netherlands, there were 197 antibiotic per 1,000 children with asthma per year, compared to 126 prescriptions per 1,000 children without asthma. In the UK there were 374 prescriptions per 1,000 children with asthma per year, compared to 250 per 1,000 children without asthma.

The researchers say that since the pattern of overprescribing antibiotics to children with asthma was the same in both countries, the situation is likely to be the same elsewhere. The Netherlands has some of the lowest antibiotic use in the world, so the situation in other countries where antibiotic use is much higher, such as in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, could potentially be far worse.

Dr Baan will tell the Congress: "Antibiotics should only be given when there is clear evidence of a bacterial infection such as for pneumonia. However, we saw that, in children with asthma, most of the antibiotic prescriptions in children were intended for asthma exacerbations or bronchitis, which are often caused by a virus rather than bacteria.

"It can be difficult for a GP to differentiate between a deterioration in and a bacterial respiratory infection. We think this might be leading to more in children with asthma.

"Children with uncontrolled can face difficulties over several years, for example it can affect their ability to play and take part in sport, they may have more days off school, or experience disturbed sleep. We don't want to compound this with prescribing drugs that won't help and may be harmful.

"Of course, sometimes antibiotics are needed, but we should be careful and only prescribe them when they are really required. In general, we should discourage GPs from prescribing unnecessary or run the risk of more drug-resistant infections in the future."

Explore further: Breastfeeding may help prevent children's asthma exacerbations later in life

More information: Abstract no: OA3449, "Antibiotic use in children with asthma", Small airways, long distances and large databases in paediatric asthma session, 10.45-12.45 hrs, Tuesday 12 September, Brown 3 (South)

Related Stories

Breastfeeding may help prevent children's asthma exacerbations later in life

September 1, 2017
In a Pediatric Allergy and Immunology analysis of children with asthma, those who had been breastfed had a 45 percent lower risk of asthma exacerbations later in life compared with children who had not been breastfed.

Respiratory tract infections in young children linked to asthma and worse lung function

September 10, 2017
Milan, Italy: Respiratory tract infections in young children are linked to an increased risk of asthma and worse lung function in later life, according to new research to be presented at the European Respiratory Society International ...

Maternal uncontrolled asthma ups risk of asthma in offspring

July 17, 2017
(HealthDay)—Children whose mothers have uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy are at increased risk of developing the disease at a young age, according to a study published online July 13 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical ...

Noninvasive test may predict asthma attacks in children

July 19, 2017
A new technology may help to non-invasively analyse lung sounds in children and infants at risk of an asthma attack.

Antibiotics often the wrong prescription for pediatric asthma

June 1, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- At nearly one in six pediatric asthma visits, antibiotics are prescribed as a remedy, despite national guidelines against the practice. Ian Paul, departments of pediatrics and public health sciences, Penn ...

Recommended for you

Breathing exercises help asthma patients with quality of life

December 13, 2017
A study led by the University of Southampton has found that people who continue to get problems from their asthma, despite receiving standard treatment, experience an improved quality of life when they are taught breathing ...

Study highlights the need for research into prevention of inflammatory bowel disease

December 7, 2017
Countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America have seen a rise in incidence of inflammatory bowel disease as they have become increasingly industrialised and westernised, a new study has found.

Air pollution can increase asthma risk in adults, even at low levels

November 24, 2017
Living close to a busy road can be bad for your respiratory health if you are middle aged, new Australian research has found.

Evidence found of oral bacteria contributing to bowel disorders

October 20, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence that suggests certain types of oral bacteria may cause or exacerbate bowel disorders. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

New compound discovered in fight against inflammatory disease

September 22, 2017
A 10-year study by University of Manchester scientists for a new chemical compound that is able to block a key component in inflammatory illness has ended in success.

Asthma researchers test substance from coralberry leaves

September 14, 2017
The coralberry could offer new hope for asthmatics. Researchers at the University of Bonn have extracted an active pharmaceutical ingredient from its leaves to combat asthma, a widespread respiratory disease. In mice, it ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.