Research finds 56% of families on Medicaid think antibiotics should be used for colds, flu

July 19, 2015

Parents of children insured by Medicaid are more likely to incorrectly assume antibiotics can treat colds and flu and seek these drugs when kids don't actually need them, a study in Pediatrics suggests. Parents surveyed in Massachusetts reported using antibiotics for their kids on average less than once a year, the study found, but when asked if antibiotics should be used for colds or flu, only 44% of the Medicaid parents correctly said "no," compared with 78% of parents with private coverage. Researchers compared the results from a survey conducted in 2000, it found:

  • The proportion of parents who thought antibiotics didn't work for nasal discharge increased from 23% to 49% among the commercially insured, and from 22% in 2000 to 32% in 2013 among Medicaid parents; and
  • Those who realize antibiotics rarely work for bronchitis rose from 9% to 14% among privately insured and from 5% to 12% for Medicaid families.

Beyond spawning superbugs that are harder to treat, greater use of antibiotics may also be linked to an increased risk of a common form of juvenile arthritis, another study in Pediatrics suggests.