For years, public health officials have warned that the rise in antibiotic prescriptions are increasing levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The study, published in Pediatrics, tracked all prescriptions for 225,000 children in nine HMOs from 1996 to 2000. Antibiotic use dropped 24 percent in children under age 3, and 25 percent for those from 3 up to 6. From those age 6 to 18 rates fell by 16 percent, USA Today reported.
"This is very exciting news and shows we're moving in the right direction," said Richard Besser, of the Centers for Disease Control's campaign for correct antibiotic use. "It's reassuring to see there's a real drop here."
Children receive the majority of antibiotics given to outpatients, often at the request of parents, even though they do not work for colds, bronchitis, viruses or 80 percent of childhood ear infections.