Every winter season, there are moms who tell me about how they had to start a round of antibiotics for an ear infection their young child just acquired. Since becoming a mother myself a few winter seasons ago, this has compounded even more being around mother’s groups, kid’s groups, daycares, preschools, etc. I have always known about this common problem, but I never knew just how many parents were so quickly (even automatically) resorting to powerful chemicals in their young children. I believe the answer to this lies in a lack of information in tandem with many one-sided sources. The health field may be my profession, but to millions of other parents out there, their passions and work lives are not in the same field. It is for this reason I have decided to write this article to help educate and show the risks involved, a few of the numerous options available, and most importantly, the different choices you have! Did you know that eight out of ten children have had or will have an ear infection? As discomforting as it can be, ear infections are a very common thing for children to experience. Many parents believe that ear infection equals antibiotics, period. In most cases however, it is exactly the opposite.
Upon the first signs of symptoms, a common place a lot of parents I know go to first for answers is WebMD. However, when I looked at WebMD, I saw that “60% of childhood antibiotic prescriptions are for otitis media (ear infections).” Looking deeper, my research into this topic got even more real:
In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report regarding the trouble of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions for kids. The CDC found that doctors were unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics for children more than half (50%!) of the time, most cases being for upper respiratory infections (colds, coughs, ear infections, sinusitis, and sore throats).
Erroneous antibiotic prescriptions are the main cause of antibiotic resistance, which is a world-wide public health dilemma. Further, medical science is beginning to realize that pediatric antibiotic exposure is not benign, and leads to asthma, eczema, and the development of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease in later years.
Other ordinary therapies prescribed for common kids’ infections, for example, Tylenol and ibuprofen carry the probable risks for more serious side effects, such as the development of asthma and even gastrointestinal bleeding. The over-usage of Tylenol is among the top causes of liver failure in America. While antibiotics and other meds can save a life when needed, when over-prescribed and misused, the consequences can be heart stopping (literally).
It is proven that antibiotics are many times handed out unnecessarily for common infections because doctors believe that parents expect these meds. Another reason doctors prescribe antibiotics so quickly is because they are afraid that if a rare or misdiagnosed infection comes up, litigation will be waiting for them around the next corner. There are also other common problems here. To begin, parents are accustomed to doctors prescribing the antibiotics. Additionally, these parents worry, and they do not want to stand by and witness their children suffering. No parent wants to see that. It is for these reasons and others, I’ve convinced many parents not to follow through with antibiotic prescriptions, and the results could not have been better.