Parents expect almost miraculous cures when they take their sick child to the doctor. Why? The introduction of penicillin, the first really effective antibiotic 70 years ago, was a wonder drug that worked overnight.
Soldiers would be dying of pneumonia or a horribly infected leg. They would recover after 3 injections of penicillin and after 7 days they would be all better. Unfortunately, penicillin doesn't work well for pneumonias or wound infections anymore because of antibiotic overuse and growing bacterial antibiotic resistance.
It's important to understand that antibiotics aren't always the answer, and are intended to fight bacterial infections. Taking them for viral infections, such as a cold, most sore throats, acute bronchitis and many sinus or ear infections will not cure the infection, or keep others from getting sick, and may cause unnecessary and harmful side effects.
Working a weekend at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital earlier this month, I saw all the children admitted into pediatrics, and advised the emergency department and the pediatrics residents. Most of the patients who came in with a high fever did not have a readily available cure since they had viral, not bacterial infections: adenovirus, respiratory synticial virus (RSV) and influenza B. There are a few antiviral drugs, but they are not as effective as antibiotics and are mostly used to prevent spread of the disease.