“Your daughter has an ear infection,” the concerned pediatrician told me.
When I put my baby in the car to drive to the doctor’s office in Atlanta, she had been the picture of good health.
She was a pudgy, engaged, curious six-month-old who loved nothing better than to fist a toothbrush, one in each hand, and gnaw on each in turn.
As my daughter whimpered in my arms at the doctor’s office, I felt perplexed.
Was I really such an inexperienced mom that I had not noticed she was sick?
“Has she been tugging on her ears?” The doctor’s voice interrupted my anxious thoughts.
I shook my head.
The pediatrician wrote me a prescription for the course of antibiotics we would need to give the baby and tore it off her pad with a satisfying sshhpp.
She smiled when she handed it to me, clearly pleased with herself at having diagnosed the problem.
Then she handed me some ear drops, “for the pain.”
Only, the baby had no pain.
She also did not have an ear infection.
I’ve told this story before, at the beginning of a chapter of my book, Your Baby, Your Way, called “Sick is the New Well: The Business of Well-Baby Care.”
What my daughter had was a **misdiagnosis** caused by an over-zealous doctor trying to solve a problem that she herself had created.
We’d been waiting for our “Well Baby” appointment for almost an hour.
My baby had been crying because she missed her nap. Because she was crying her ear drum looked red. So the doctor decided she was sick.
We filled the prescription, paid the co-pay, and went home.
The baby took a nap and woke up her smiling drooling happy self, eager get back to the fascinating work of teaching herself to crawl and gnawing on toothbrushes.
She did not need an antibiotic.
Luckily my husband and I were confident enough as parents to pay attention to her behavior and realize she was fine, despite the doctor’s insistence to the contrary.
We did not give the antibiotic to her.
The problem of overprescribing antibiotics has reached a crisis point in America today.
Even though doctors are now much more aware of the problem than they were 14 years ago when my oldest was a baby, they can’t seem to kick the antibiotic habit.
This recent study found that 78 percent overused or overprescribed antibiotics.
Another study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children and teens are prescribed antibiotics TWICE as often as they are actually needed.
Our children are also being exposed to antibiotics in the food chain. When we eat factory farmed animal meat, chances are good that it contains antibiotics.
There are also small amounts of pharmaceuticals–including antibiotics, anti-depressants, and other drugs–in the water we drink. According to Harvard Medical School, sewage treatment plants are not designed to filter out pharmaceuticals from the drinking water. They explain:
A study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1999 and 2000 found measurable amounts of one or more medications in 80% of the water samples drawn from a network of 139 streams in 30 states. The drugs identified included a witches’ brew of antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners, heart medications (ACE inhibitors, calcium-channel blockers, digoxin), hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), and painkillers.
The misuse, overuse, and over-exposure to antibiotics leads to antibiotic-resistant superbugs, putting us all at risk for serious hard-to-treat infections.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
The increasing number of drug-resistant infections results in:
- More-serious illness or disability
- More deaths from previously treatable illnesses
- Prolonged recovery
- More-frequent or longer hospitalization
- More doctor visits
- Less effective or more-invasive treatments
- More-expensive treatments
World health researchers are so worried about the rise of antibiotic superbugs that some warn of an upcoming antibiotic apocalypse.
Over 11 million antibiotic prescriptions are written for children and teens every year. At least half of them are unnecessary in the first place.
New research now confirms that children given antibiotics are at much higher risk of having allergies.
The vast majority of those other prescriptions for antibiotics could easily be avoided.
By making two simple evidence-based lifestyle changes, we can vastly improve our own immune systems and help our children’s bodies better fight off diseases.
From the moment of conception, or even before a baby is conceived, moms- to-be need to:
1) Eat healthy, fresh, whole foods instead of processed food-like substances.
2) Seed the immune system with beneficial bacteria by eating fermented foods like raw sauerkraut and cultured foods like plain yogurt every day with every meal, as well as by taking a high quality probiotic daily supplement.
Is it really that easy?
We also need to make sure our children get enough sleep, exercise daily, spend lots of time outside, and do not feel chronic stress.
As William Parker, Ph.D., an associate professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine, explains in this webinar, a sedentary lifestyle, vitamin D deficiency, and depleted biome have all been shown to cause inflammation, which can lead to more susceptibility to disease agents, as well as to auto-immune disorders. It’s also important to avoid antibiotics during pregnancy and avoid having a C-section birth.
I grew up eating Apple Jacks for breakfast every morning and canned Chef Boyardee ravioli for lunch. I was also plagued with strep throat, ear infections, inexplicable stomach aches, and body rashes. I found out when I was seven that I was allergic to penicillin and took more rounds of erythromycin than I can count. My little sister was on prophylactic antibiotics for over a year. But in fifteen years of parenting four children, I have never had to give any of them an antibiotic.
Maybe all those years of exclusive breastfeeding and making sure they got enough sleep paid off.
Maybe we’ve just been lucky.
Or maybe your kid really doesn’t need antibiotics.
So there you have it. The most radical thing you can do to take back your children’s health: feed your family real food.
Reviewed by Paul Thomas, M.D. Last updated June 28, 2018.