Antibiotics: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Antibiotics are life-saving drugs. They fight bacterial infections and literally save lives. If your child gets bacterial meningitis, by all means, take the antibiotic! Antibiotics absolutely have a place in medicine. But before you take some for yourself, or give some to your child, find out if the drug is actually necessary for your illness.
According to the Center for Disease Control, “Antibiotic use is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance. Up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is either unnecessary or inappropriate. Each year in the United States, 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written in doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, and hospital-based clinics, which makes improving antibiotic prescribing and use a national priority.”
Woah, that means that if I go to the doctor because I don’t feel well, and I’m prescribed an antibiotic, I have a 30-50% chance that I DON’T actually need it! That’s insane. It’s Ludicrous.
Did you know that the Number 1 reason parents bring their kids to the doctor is for ear infections?
Many of these infections are Otitis media with effusion, or OME for short. OME can be cause by many things: elevation changes, upper respiratory infection, allergies, environmental factors (like cigarette smoke), etc.
According to the CDC, “OME almost always goes away on its own and will not benefit from antibiotics.”
Now sometimes the fluid in the middle ear can become infected. Sometimes you need an antibiotic – but sometimes you still DON’T. Even the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you use the “wait and see” method. Wait a few days and see if the infection gets better on it’s own. If the Mild Infection doesn’t get better, then you might consider an antibiotic with a doctor.
If you child is very young (under 2) they need to be watched more closely and might be given an antibiotic sooner.
But you should also know that according to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, “Infants given antibiotics had the highest increase in IBD [Inflammatory Bowel Disease] risk: with each antibiotic course, a 6% increase in getting IBD occurred. Infants who had more than 2 courses in their infancy had higher risk than those with just one course. The effect appears slightly cumulative–the more doses, the higher the risk.”
All antibiotics kill bad AND good bacteria.
Antibiotics reek havoc on your digestive system. That’s why you see common side effects like diarrhea from antibiotics.
Viral vs. Bacterial
Antibiotics are effective against Bacterial Infections.
Antibiotics are NOT effective against Viral Infections.
From the CDC, Antibiotics:
- Will not cure the infection
- Will not keep other people from getting sick
- Will not help you or your child feel better
- May cause unnecessary and harmful side effects
- May contribute to antibiotic resistance, which is when bacteria are able to resist the effects of an antibiotic and continue to cause harm
When dealing with a viral infection, you can treat the symptoms and you can do your best to boost your immune system.
I’m writing this because I want for YOU to be educated. I want for you to be able to ask your doctor the right questions so that you get the right treatment you need. Sometimes that means you need an antibiotic and many times it means that you do not.
Immune Support at Home
The CDC recommends the “wait and see” method with many illnesses. What can you do from home while you wait?
- Get plenty of rest (Help your child get restful sleep)
- Drink lots of fluid
- Consider a humidifier – just make sure you clean it well and often.
- Use a homemade throat spray or honey to ease occasional irritation.
- If you child breastfeeds, drop breast milk into an irritated ear.
- Consider taking a Vitamin D Supplement.
If You Need Antibiotics
- If you need antibiotics, you should still take into account the side effects of the drug. Take a probiotic to build back up the good bacteria in your gut.
- Take your antibiotics as instructed – following dosage and how long you should take them.
- Do not save antibiotics for the next time your child gets sick.
- Do not share antibiotics. Do not take antibiotics that were prescribed for someone else. That antibiotic may not be the antibiotic you need for your illness.
Seattle’s Children Hospital, Research, Foundation