It’s becoming something of a mantra: Antibiotics do nothing to treat the flu or common cold. And it apparently needs repeating, because even though antibiotics treat bacterial instead of viral infections, as many as 75% of kids with viral respiratory infections like a cold are prescribed them, reports Health Day. Now, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics that there is a clear ethnic disparity behind this improper treatment, with white kids being roughly twice as likely as black and Latino children to be prescribed antibiotics when they shouldn’t be. “It is troubling to see such persistent racial and ethnic differences in how medications are prescribed,” the lead researcher says.
Researcher at Children’s National Health System looked at “deidentified” (basically: anonymous) electronic health data from nearly 40,000 visits to seven pediatrics emergency department in different parts of the country in 2013, all for upper respiratory infections that antibiotics cannot address, per the American Academy of Pediatrics. They found that 4.3% of non-Latino white kids were prescribed them, compared to 1.9% of non-Latino black patients and 2.6% of Latino patients, reports Medical Xpress. These percentages are a lot lower than other estimates, but to get to the driving reasons behind treatment disparities in such young children (their mean age was 3), the researchers suggest investigating “parental expectations, provider perceptions of parental expectations, and implicit provider bias.”