Expert Advice

How Long to Take Antibiotics

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q
I've noticed that whenever my children have a strep infection or ear infection, the doctor gives them antibiotics to take for ten days. Is it really important to take it for ten days or will six or seven days be enough?
A
The reason for giving the antibiotics for ten days is to make sure that the infection has been cleared. While it is true that some people probably clear the infection with less than ten days of antibiotics, most studies have shown that the best clearance rate for the most people occurs after ten days. There is no way to know ahead of time if your child will clear the infection sooner, so it is best to follow your doctor's recommendation and give it for the full ten days.

If the infection is inadequately treated, it can come back again, "smolder" in a milder fashion for a while, or cause serious complications.

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

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