The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that the majority of Clostridium difficile infections in children occur in patients who took antibiotics prescribed by their doctor for other conditions.
The study showed 71 percent of infections in children ages one through 17 years of age were community-associated and not related to an overnight hospital visit.
Most of the children had received antibiotics for ear, sinus or upper respiratory infections, according to interviews with the subjects' parents. The CDC said that at least 50 percent of antibiotics prescriptions for children are to treat upper respiratory infections, which do not require antibiotics.
"Improved antibiotic prescribing is critical to protect the health of our nation's children," CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "When antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly, our children are needlessly put at risk for health problems including C. difficile infection and dangerous antibiotic resistant infections."
President Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 includes funding for the CDC to improve outpatient antibiotic prescription practices in an effort to protect patients from infections such as C. difficile.
The CDC said taking antibiotics is the most pivotal factor in adults and children contracting the infection. Beneficial bacteria that help maintain body chemistry and fight infection are altered or eliminated by prescription antibiotics. C. difficile can be contracted while the immune system is suppressed.
"Antibiotics aren't always the answer," Lauri Hicks, the CDC director of Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program. "I urge parents to work with their child's doctor to find the best treatment for the illness, which may just be providing symptom relief."