A new study finds that antibiotics were over prescribed to children when seeking ambulatory care for their asthma, even though national guidelines do not recommend antibiotics as a remedy. The findings have been published in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers reviewed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Emergency department and office visits made by children under 18 years of age were assessed to determine the frequency of antibiotic prescriptions. From 1998 to 2007, an estimated 60.4 million asthma visits occurred. The International Classification of Diseases codes were used to evaluate coexisting conditions that warrant the use of antibiotics.

The findings indicated that antibiotics were prescribed at nearly one in six pediatric ambulatory care visits for asthma when the need for antibiotics was not justified. The co-prescribing of systemic corticosteroids was associated with an increased likelihood of antibiotic prescriptions suggesting, say the researchers, that asthma symptom severity may influence the decision to prescribe antibiotics.

In contrast, at visits where asthma education was provided by the treating physician, antibiotics were less likely to be prescribed. Given that inappropriate antibiotic prescribing can lead to drug-resistant bacterial infections, patient education may be one way to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing, according to the researchers.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics