Toss leftovers. If, for any reason, you are left with extra medicine at the end of a course, throw it out. Old and even expired medications sitting around are a hazard and a bad temptation.
Ask before you administer! In the event that you feel an old prescription medication might be suitable for your child, call your doctor’s office to check before starting it. There are some (though very few) instances I can imagine in which it is reasonable to start a given prescription prior to an office evaluation. Many offices have a triage nurse that can help talk you through these situations, and sometimes a doctor will be happy to treat an infection over the phone without your child being seen, if the circumstances are right.
Helping Parents Deal
The real motivation behind this type of behavior is typically the best of intentions by well-meaning parents. Obviously, parents do not purposefully complicate their own lives and the health of their children. More likely, the culprit is simple thinking like, “I had a sinus infection and runny nose and it was treated with this medicine and it worked. Let me give it to my child. Maybe it will make him feel better sooner.”
As the saying goes: When all you have is a hammer, every problem suddenly starts looking like a nail. Unfortunately, adult and childhood sinus infections (and other illnesses) are quite different in their symptoms, time course, and treatment plan.
Also, parents may not understand the global concept of antibiotic overuse and resistance, or they may choose to ignore it when thinking about their individual situations. After all, what harm could one extra course of antibiotics do just one time in a child? The answer, from most experts is: quite a bit.