Avoiding Antibiotic Overuse

Last winter my daughter had a fever and a severe head cold.  She wasn’t even one year old then, but as a mom it is sometimes easy to have the tendency to worry if your child is going to be alright or not.  I honestly am not the kind of mom who takes my children to the doctor every time that they get sick.  I don’t even believe in giving them Tylenol when they have a fever, I can leave an explanation for that for another post.  I believe that being sick as a child is a large part of growing a strong immune system that will serve them well when they get older.   At the last minute before the weekend hit I took my daughter to see a Nurse Practitioner just to make sure that there was nothing major going on. As I sat in that office thinking I should have just stayed at home and waited it out (something I typically think when I take my child to the doctors office) I watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the CNN health TV in the doctors office share about how antibiotics are widely overused.   Dr. Gupta went on to explain that antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections and can do nothing a viral infection.

As I entered that Nurse Practitioners office she checked out my daughter and then announced that she thought it was something viral.  She then wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic with absolutely no explanation.  Speechless, I should have called her out and ask her about the special I just saw in her waiting room, but I didn’t.  Instead, I took the piece of paper and pocketed it.  I never filled the prescription and my little lady healed just fine.  I never did return to her office (I never will) and I continue to think that if I was like many parents out there that just don’t realize that antibiotics are only useful for bacterial infections I probably would have filled the prescription and given her the medicine without even realizing that it would do nothing good for her.

So, we know that antibiotics are not always necessary but are they bad for you when they are not necessary?  The answer is yes, antibiotic overuse can be very harmful. Antibiotics kill bacteria and since our body contains both good and bad bacteria it will kill off both.  The absence of this good bacteria in the body can lead to everything from upset stomach, and bad digestion to yeast infections and reoccurring illness.  Yuck Yuck!  And, unfortunately a doctor will typically treat a reoccurring illness with just another antibiotic which will just cause a cycle of use.  Plus, as you use more antibiotics your body will build up a resistance to it and your body will need something more powerful to kill off the bacteria.  This is essentially how antibiotic resistant super bugs have been known to mutate so that there is really nothing to be done in order to kill them off.

So, the next time your doctor prescribes an antibiotic for you or your child take charge of your health and ask him/her these questions:

Do I or my child have a viral or bacterial illness?

Is this antibiotic absolutely necessary?

Is it possibly to wait it out at all until we start the use of the antibiotic?

If you or your child does need an antibiotic (it is sometimes necessary) make sure you stop by a local health food store on the way home and stock up on probiotics.  Probiotics will help you or your child replenish the good bacteria in their gut that the antibiotics destroyed.  It is important to replenish this healthy bacteria.  But, make sure you give it to your child two hours or more after you have given the antibiotic or it will destroy the health benefits.  Chewable probiotics are available for small children or you can purchase a powdered version that can easily be mixed into yogurt, applesauce, or other mashed food.


  1. Hee. I once took my son in for something that really did require attention. I can’t remember what it was, but it wasn’t a run of the mill cold or fever. The nurse called him “the boy who never gets sick” because she never sees him for the usual stuff. Um, yes he does! I just don’t see a reason to take my kids to the doctor every time they get a tummy bug. Really, you’re just spreading the germs around and picking up more of your own. Unless something lasts for an unusual amount of time, or there are wild symptoms I don’t know how to deal with, I just keep them home.