Childhood Infections

The most common bacterial infections among children are skin infections (including impetigo), ear infections, and throat infections (strep throat). These and many other less common bacterial disorders are treated similarly in adults and children and are discussed elsewhere. Other infections occur at all ages but have specific considerations in children. Several severe bacterial infections are preventable by routine immunization early in childhood.

Diagnosis of Bacterial Infections in Children

  • Tests of blood, body fluids, or tissue samples
  • Culture

We diagnose bacterial infections by the typical symptoms they cause. Usually, however, bacteria must be identified in samples of tissue, blood, or body fluids, such as urine, pus, or cerebrospinal fluid. Sometimes bacteria from these samples can be recognized under a microscope or identified with rapid detection tests such as tests that look for genetic material from certain bacteria.

Treatment of Bacterial Infections in Children

  • Antibiotics
  • Sometimes also surgery

Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections. There are many different antibiotics. Each one is effective only on certain bacteria, although some are effective against a wider range of bacteria than others. Most often, antibiotics alone can eliminate bacterial infections. However, when an infection has created a large collection of pus, people sometimes also need surgery to drain the pus. Such infections include abscesses and joint infections.

Doctors may treat certain potentially serious childhood infections with antibiotics before they have the culture results. When results are obtained, the antibiotics are continued or changed as needed. If no bacteria are found, antibiotics may be stopped.