Treat one disease, cause another -- it's not how medicine is supposed to work, but it happens every single day.

The antibiotics given for just about every condition under the sun can cause everything from short-term side effects such as diarrhea to far more serious long-term issues.

And the younger the patient, the bigger those risks -- including the very real possibility of a lifetime of gastrointestinal misery, all from a single course of antibiotics given at the wrong time.

The problem in young patients is that the drugs can wipe out the friendly bacteria in the gut before they have a chance to establish themselves -- and these are the very bugs needed for proper digestion and overall good health.

As a result, kids who are given the drugs before their first birthday are 5.5 times more likely to suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis than kids who aren't given the meds, according to the study of more than a million British children published in the journal Pediatrics.

These bowel conditions aren't minor illnesses. They're serious conditions that can involve severe stomach pain, constant diarrhea, rectal bleeding and more.

For adults, inflammatory bowel diseases can be painful and debilitating. And for kids, they could literally ruin childhood.

Older kids and teens are less likely to suffer these diseases after a single course of antibiotics, in part because their gut flora has had a chance to move in and establish itself.

But the risk doesn't vanish -- and the study found that the more antibiotics these kids are given, the higher the risk of an IBD.

Now, there are times when antibiotics might be needed and times when they may even save lives. And in those cases, you can justify those risks.

But too many doctors are too quick with these meds, giving them out for every minor childhood illness and complaint -- including colds, earaches, and sore throats where the drugs do little or nothing.

That's why it's essential to try natural treatments first -- and when you do need the meds, make sure you take a probiotic supplement during your treatment and for several weeks afterward.

And that's true no matter how old -- or young -- you are.