What I learned as a {pediatric resident}’s wife: Antibiotics

Let me start out this blog by saying that the very reason I’m writing this is because these topics are HIGHLY controversial. So, this blog is for those who are looking to justify following doctors’ orders, not for those who want to prove conventional or Western medicine is somehow lacking. If you’re looking to justify NOT following doctors’ orders, scoot on; you won’t find what you’re looking for here. I am not a medical professional and the stories I recount for you are ones that were reported on the news or recounted to me by friends. My husband cannot and will not share stories with me of his patients.

Again, we’re in residency hell and every day, I hear heartbreaking medical stories in the news or on social media. It’s so sad to really listen to the news. That’s another story for another day, but on this particular day I heard about a kid dying from something common, like an infection. As soon as Justin was home, maybe before he even walked in the door (Those of you who know me will know.), I met him and was asking him all sorts of questions about why in the world a kid would die from an infection. Don’t we have medicines that can treat infections? Like, the big guns…the antibiotics that people get in the hospital that have to be mixed by the guy that designed it and then jetted in just for this one patient? (Ok, well, that all might have been made up from an episode of ER or something, but… still.) Justin calmly walked me inside and we looked up the news story. It was a child that had died of an infection in a place like Philadelphia or something, and it was, in fact, a common infection that should have been treatable. The child died in the hospital while receiving treatment.

“Wait, what?!?! Ok, I understand that there are third world countries that don’t even have penicillin, but here in the good old US of A? In a big city? At one of the top hospitals in the nation for children? HOW does this happen?”

I might have been paranoid at this point because, if my memory serves me correctly, we were about four weeks pregnant with our first child. If that could happen in Philadelphia, it could happen anywhere.  At least, those were my {very paranoid} thoughts.

As we sat there and discussed this horrific tragedy, Justin explained why it was so important to only use antibiotics when you have a proven infection. An ear infection, strep, sinus infection, etc. However, when you just don’t feel well, or your kid doesn’t, and you go to the doctor, don’t take antibiotics unless you really need them. Antibiotics, he said, were made to fight infections in the body, but bacteria are smart little suckers. They learn how we’re treating them and then become resistant to the antibiotic that got rid of them, making an antibiotic less effective in the future. So you have to get a stronger antibiotic. Stronger and stronger until there’s nothing stronger; nothing that will kill what should be a normal infection mitigated by normal antibiotics.  This explains why, with every ear infection, my kids needed different medicines to try to clear up what wasn’t being cleared up before. This is also why we opted for tubes rather than ear infection after ear infection, antibiotic after antibiotic. Yes, I’m sure that I could have tried the garlic natural remedy, but I didn’t want to risk the speech implications of my kids not being able to hear well for weeks on end (Both Noah and Caden had ongoing ear infections for up to three months during their pivotal speech development times.), so we went with tubes over other forms of treatment.

Now, obviously, this is a worse-case scenario; your kid will most likely not get an antibiotic-resistant infection. Just like you most likely will not kill your baby while you’re bed sharing. But, my take on it from then was: if there is a possibility that my child could only have a virus, I’ll wait it out, see if things get better, and treat only when necessary. If you have any questions about why you do or do not need antibiotics, see Justin’s post here. If you’re a parent who is trying to figure out if your baby really needs medicine or not, ask! Your doctors and their staff are ready and able to answer your questions. Don’t feel guilty about calling for a runny nose or a fever; that’s what they’re there for! I wouldn’t go in for those things and risk exposure to an infection, but I’d certainly call to see if coming in was necessary or not.

Other than that, be patient with your children’s illnesses, as they usually last about a week until your little one is feeling back to his or herself again. Keep track of when symptoms start, how long they last and their severity, and enjoy the extra snuggles you’re getting while your kiddos’ bodies are learning how to fight infections!

P. S. I saw this on the news last night! Watch the video or read the article here.