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Antibiotics are powerful tools that can be lifesaving for serious bacterial infections. However, they are only effective against bacterial infections (such as strep throat and many ear infections). They are not effective against viral infections, such as the common cold, even if fever exists.
Antibiotics do pose a risk of side effects or allergic reactions. When they are overused or when you do not finish a prescription, there is a risk of the bacteria developing resistance to the antibiotic.
The pediatricians at Weill Cornell Medical Associates approach each sick child individually, to assess the risk of a bacterial infection and weigh it against the risk of taking the antibiotic, so you can make an informed decision about antibiotic use. For example, mild ear infections usually resolve without treatment. We do not prescribe antibiotics over the phone (such as for an earache) without examining the child first.