A recently published study in the journal Pediatrics adds more credence to experts’ warnings that the overuse of antibiotics is making people sick, including the littlest of patients. Researchers now say that antibiotics increase children’s risk of developing juvenile arthritis, a painful and chronic disease. 
More than 400,000 British children were analyzed by researchers, including 152 that were diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. The researchers discovered that youngsters who were prescribed antibiotics had twice the risk of developing the illness compared with those the same age who didn’t take antibiotics.
“This public health finding is potentially important, considering that approximately one-quarter of antibiotics prescribed for children, and an estimated one-half of antibiotics for acute respiratory infections, may be unnecessary and potentially avoidable,” scientists wrote in the study published July 20. 
The risk of juvenile arthritis increased with the number of courses of antibiotics prescribed. The study was conducted because previous studies have shown that antibiotics disrupt microbes in the gut, which can predispose children to autoimmune diseases.
Health experts say around half of the antibiotics prescribed to children for acute respiratory infections are unnecessary.
“Our research suggests another possible reason to avoid antibiotic overuse for infections that would otherwise get better on their own,” said lead author Daniel Horton, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ. 
According to scientists, juvenile arthritis can be attributed to genetics in approximately one-quarter of cases. This suggests that environmental factors may play an important role in the development of the disease.
Recent studies have shed light specifically on the association between childhood antibiotic use, microbiome disturbance, and the onset of autoimmune diseases. Disruption of the microbiota in the intestine is also believed to be a contributing factor to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and rheumatoid arthritis in adults. 
Researchers found no link between arthritis and antiviral and antifungal drugs, suggesting the increased risk for juvenile arthritis was specific to antibacterial drugs.
When people get sick, they just want to feel better, but immediately running to the doctor for an antibiotic is risky business. The more we turn to antibiotics to try to treat what ails us, the more resistant bacteria become to them. That’s right, our drive to get better as quickly as possible is making us sick. 
Additionally, antibiotic resistance is believed to cause Americans more than $20 billion in additional healthcare costs each year from the treatment of otherwise preventable infections. It is estimated that antibiotic resistance will cost $100 trillion by 2050.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.