Will the antibiotic protect against future infections? No. Antibiotics are intended to treat whatever illness was diagnosed initially. They will not prevent a child from catching something else later. The average toddler gets ten illnesses each year, so it is not unexpected to see one within weeks of another.

What happens if the antibiotic isn’t working? If you’re child has been taking antibiotics for two days with no improvement, it is time to see a doctor. There are several reasons why your child might not be getting better:

  • They may be on the wrong medication — sometimes antibiotics need to be changed.
  • The dose may need to be increased or the delivery method changed.
  • They may have developed a new symptom.
  • They might be unable to keep it down or may be spitting it across the room when you attempt to give it.

Will the medicine help with fever? Pain? Not at first. The antibiotic will help clear up the infection, which will ultimately make the child feel better. In the beginning days, however, the antibiotic does not help with either fever or pain. Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if older than six months) to manage the pain and fever. Check the dose as it changes quickly as children grow.  Use the measuring device that came with the medication to measure out the right amount.

What happens if I can’t get my child to eat before taking the medication? Most antibiotics can be given on an empty stomach. Many children have a poor appetite when feeling bad. Try offering just a small amount of juice, fruit, or crackers before giving the medication.

Is diarrhea when taking antibiotics an allergic reaction? Diarrhea can be a side effect.  As long as the child is comfortable, drinking well, and there is no blood in the stool, there is no need to worry. The stools should return to normal once the medication is discontinued.

What should I do if my child vomits after taking the medicine? If it has been less than 30 minutes, repeat the dose. If it has been more than 30 minutes, then wait until the next scheduled dose.

What happens if we accidentally miss a dose? Do we start all over? No need to start over after one missed dose. Just resume the medication at the next scheduled dose, and then set an alarm to remind you from then onward. Finish the medication completely. Do not end an antibiotic early to save some for the next illness. Leftover medication expires quickly and may be inappropriate for the next illness.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, May 2020


  • The full course of antibiotics should always be taken.
  • Antibiotics will not reduce fever or pain at first.
  • Call the doctor if your child doesn’t improve in 2 days on antibiotics.
  • If it’s not working, the dose or type might need to be adjusted.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Antibiotic Prescriptions and 10 Common Questions.


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