Overprescribing antibiotics to preschool children may lead to more problems in the future, experts warn.
Researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Cardiff, and Southampton have analysed information from the electronic patient records of more than 250,000 children.
Accordingly, they found that when two or more courses of antibiotics had been prescribed for common respiratory tract infections such as coughs, sore throats or earaches, failure of subsequent treatment, including the need for hospital referral and admission, was 30 per cent greater.
"When children receive more antibiotics their likelihood of re-consulting a health professional is affected and inadvertently increases clinical workload," said study leader Dr. Oliver van Hecke in a statement, adding that the dangers of preschool children being given unnecessary antibiotics are becoming clearer.
In light of the findings, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, emphasised it is important for parents to understand antibiotics are not the answer to many common childhood illnesses.
"GPs are acutely aware of the potential dangers of prescribing of antibiotics when they are not absolutely necessary - and how this can contribute to growing resistance to these important drugs, which is a global concern," she said. "This research drives home how important it is for patients - and particularly the parents of young children - to understand that antibiotics do not work for every infection and should not be prescribed for the most common childhood conditions such as colds, coughs, ear infections or sort throats which are usually caused by viruses."
Full study results have been published in the British Journal of General Practice.