• Children's Center

    Infectious Diseases A-Z: Rise in multidrug-resistant infections in kids

a little girl with a cold or sneezing blowing her nose into a tissue
Multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections in children are on the rise. A new study shows a 700-percent increase in MDR antibiotic-resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections in children admitted to hospitals around the U.S.

"More and more commonly, we are seeing children who are admitted to the hospital, who have infections with more resistant bacteria than we have been in the past," says Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases specialist Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse.

Dr. Rajapakse adds, "One of the biggest reasons for this is the amount of antibiotics children are getting now. We know that up to half of antibiotics that are prescribed are either completely unnecessary or inappropriate. By inappropriate, I mean either the dose of the antibiotic is incorrect or the duration or length of time that the antibiotic is prescribed for is incorrect, and that is one of the biggest drivers of resistance."

She says that the overuse of antibiotics is the single biggest driver in antibiotic resistance.

Watch: Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse discusses multidrug-resistant infections in kids.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites are in the downloads.

What can parents do?

Encouraging good hand hygiene, staying up-to-date on vaccinations and good communication with your child's health care provider are all ways parents can have an active role in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Dr. Rajapakse says,

"The best way to avoid recurrently being exposed to antibiotics is to prevent yourself or your child from getting infections in the first place. What we recommend is excellent hand-washing to wash all the germs away. Kids are always touching their eyes, nose, and putting their fingers in their mouth and so they get viral infections very frequently. And so, excellent hand-washing for everyone in the family can help to prevent some of that spread of infection. The second thing is ensuring that your child’s immunizations are all kept up-to-date. These are some of the best tools that we have to prevent infections, and that includes getting a flu shot every year."

What if your child does get a cough, cold or flu?

Dr. Rajapakse says your child may still get a viral infection, which cannot be cured by antibiotics, but there are ways to make your child more comfortable, including over-the-counter medications — such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen — humidifiers and lozenges if your child is old enough to safely use them for a sore throat.

She adds, "It’s very important that parents feel comfortable talking to their health care provider about their child’s illness, asking them what they think is causing the illness, whether it’s a virus or bacterium, and, if it’s a virus, what other strategies parents can use to help their child to feel better, since antibiotics do not work against viruses."