My comments about preventive antibiotics, part 1 of 3

Disclaimer: I’m really conservative and avoid antibiotics, but I don’t tell people not to do what their doc says.

I have strong opinions about antibiotics (AB’s) because of my experiences over a lifetime. I’ll tell you the nutshell version:

I used to get strep as a kid, several times a year. I believe that so many courses of AB’s destroyed my immune system, and it took me years of good nutrition to recover. I’m also allergic to penicillin and was rushed to the E.R. and nearly died when I was a child, when I took it.

I had a root canal not long ago, and the periodontist my doctor referred me to sent a 20-year old staff member out to pressure me into taking a course of oral AB’s before the procedure.

I refused and went to another guy, had the procedure, no problem, no AB.

When I was in labor with my 3rd child, they did a swab and told me I was positive for strep. I was symptom free. In the moment, I told them I am ALWAYS strep-positive: it lives in me since I was a kid and got strep constantly. They demanded that I take injected AB right then. Fortunately my baby was born so quickly after that, I didn’t have time to get the AB. (I told them I didn’t want it and they said I had to anyway.) The baby was fine, and I was fine.

My third child had a structural ear problem and rather than give her even ONE dose of AB for her chronic ear infections, I had tubes inserted. I’d read in the medical journals that 85% of ear infections are virally caused anyway (impervious to antibiotics)–and yet virtually 100% of ear infections are treated with AB!

When I worked on the children’s unit of the state hospital, in grad school, if one child got strep, they administered AB to ALL the children. With that, plus the terrible cafeteria diet, and perpetual snacking on sugary foods brought in by volunteers, I’ve never seen a group of children more perpetually ill.

So. Because of my own bad experience with AB’s, I refused them for my kids when they were little. Never once did the “worst case scenario” happen, and I didn’t destroy the friendly flora in their digestive tracts that they needed to fight the next infection to come along. So, I was emboldened in my microcosmic “civil disobedience” rejecting the automatic drug approach.

Not that I became cavalier about my children’s health. Part of why I’m willing to say no to antibiotics is that I’m doing quite a lot to keep them healthy and naturally resilient. Like minimizing sugar and maximizing green. Like not owning any drugs in my house for cough, cold, allergies, etc. More tomorrow.

11 thoughts on “My comments about preventive antibiotics, part 1 of 3

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  1. Additionally (another reason why your antibiotics argument is not clear cut)… when children are sick they tend not to eat or drink well, becoming dehydrated and losing weight. Weight loss if FAT loss, and fat is used for the BRAIN. If your child is continually battling weight loss you are also setting them up for possibly decreased brain health. I am sure all of these well meaning moms would never want that.

  2. “I’d read in the medical journals that 85% of ear infections are virally caused anyway (impervious to antibiotics)–and yet virtually 100% of ear infections are treated with AB!”

    I just wanted to clarify this statement. I am a nurse practitioner and treat these infections daily…my son also struggles with the problem. To say that ear infections are 85% caused by viral infections is true, however, the scenario is not at clear cut as you say. You see–The viral infection sets your ear up for BACTERIAL infection by causing eustachian tube dysfunction. This means that the viral illness causes an excess of gunk (snot) to build up near the eustachian tube, causing it to block off (it is no longer free flowing) This then means that the bacteria from your upper respiratory tract then becomes TRAPPED in the ear drum, slowly becoming more and more full of puss, causing the fever, ear pain, and possibly even rupture. Now..whether you want to wait out the 4-6 weeks of this pain and travail in order for your body to heal itself(completely eliminate the inner ear BACTERIAL infection, or 4-6 months for your ear and hearing to heal once it has ruptured) is up to you, but most people have full time jobs and their child must be well to go to day care. Antibiotics quickly eliminate the inner ear bacterial infection, whether or not the eustachian tube is opened or not.

  3. My homebirth midwife has all of her clients take a combination of garlic pills and Vitamin C daily for a couple of weeks before their strep b test. She says that after doing this she’s never had one momma test positive. It’s worth a try if you’re worried about it.

  4. A few things I have done for ear infections:

    My first daughter had ear infections constantly (we were not on a whole foods diet, then) and unfortunately I didn’t know any better, and she was on antibiotics a lot.

    For my son, every time he got a cold, I mixed a little bit of extra virgin olive oil with tea tree oil and rubbed it on the bottoms of his feet, his chest, and down his jaw line along his eustachion tubes. He never once got an ear infection. My second son was born three months ago, has had several little colds (I think just because his immune system is so new), and I have done the same for him. So far, he hasn’t had any ear infections, and we hope it continues that way!

  5. Dear Robin,

    Do you have any tips for improving iron and lowering cholesterol?

    I just had my blood results and even though I eat pretty well ( I have a gs on daily basis) my iron is low and cholesterol high.

    Please help!!

    Many thanks, Alma

    1. Alma, I was just watching Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., say, in the trailer for the new movie, about his career and Dr. Colin Campbell’s, that heart disease is totally unnecessary if you simply eat a plant-based diet. Green smoothies are a great start but lots more plant foods, and eliminating processed oils, any fried foods, and animal products, is important for you with high cholesterol! Get some Liquid Light in your routine before bed and when you wake up, and eat prunes, whole grains, more greens (salads) for your iron, and check into getting some Lugol’s iodine solution.

  6. Awesome comments. I am going to do a Part 4 on this blog series, compiling everyone’s tried-and-true ideas, so readers can print it and have it on hand. I have tried most of the things you have suggested in the last couple of blog entries (including raw onion juice) with good results.

  7. Ooh, a pregnancy/birth question – my favorite!!

    Group B Strep (GBS) is different than Group A Strep. Group A is what causes strep throat. I just wanted to note that they are not related.

    About 25% of women carry the GBS strain normally. I tested positive for GBS during my first pregnancy. I had a traditional hospital birth and I had IV antibiotics. We had problems with thrush. My 2nd/3rd births were homebirths and I did not take antibiotics or take any special precautions. All 3 babies were fine.

    I do not want to scare anyone about GBS, but just because I didn’t have a problem or Robyn didn’t have a problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 1999 of 2000 babies will never have a problem. But GBS disease is very serious for the 1 in 2000. But the antibiotics they give to all 2000 women and by extension, 2000 babies, will cause at least mild problems for all of them. I know it is such a hard choice – each of us has to carefully research and make the decision for ourselves.

    If you choose to forgo the antibiotics, there are many natural things you can do to reduce the GBS load in the weeks before birth to reduce the risk to the baby, and many midwives will help you with these options. Call up a local homebirth midwife or research GBS or Group B Strep on a natural birth/parenting site (such as Mothering.com) and you’ll find a lot of ideas about things you can do.

    I got the following from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002342/ – a totally mainstream medical source:

    “The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have established two methods to help reduce the risk of Group B streptococcal septicemia:

    * Pregnant women are tested for group B streptococcus at 35 – 37 weeks into their pregnancy. If the bacteria are detected, women are given antibiotics through a vein during labor.

    * Prenatal screening is not done, but a woman who meets certain risk factors is given antibiotics through a vein during labor.

    Both sets of procedures are currently accepted as the standard of care.”

    OBs have typically used the first method, but under their own guidelines, the second method is acceptable, and I think it would be a very reasonable compromise if you are concerned about GBS. The risk factors they mention include history of giving birth to a baby with GBS sepsis, mother who has a fever (over 100.4 degrees F) during labor, prematurity, rupture of membranes (“water breaks”) more than 18 hours before baby is delivered, and use of intrauterine fetal monitoring (“scalp lead”) during labor. It also helps immensely to have practitioners who do not insist on breaking your water or on performing cervical exams. The amniotic sac is intended to stay intact for a reason! Then after the water breaks, the amniotic fluid is constantly washing bacteria DOWN and OUT. If anyone sticks their hands up the vagina for an exam, bacteria from the mother is pushed UP. It may be difficult to find a practitioner willing to work that way, but they do exist, even traditional obstetricians!

  8. I’m curious what happened with your 4th child (you have 4, right?) when you were in labor? I’m about to have my 4th and am wondering what to do about the group B strep thing. I have slower labors so with my 3rd I made the nurse time it so I only had one dose and luckily we were about right on so I didn’t have to get another. I wanted to do that after having such a bad experience with my 2nd child. The labor was slow and so I had at least 3 doses over the course of 12 hours and my poor little boy had the worst yeast infection ever for 2 whole months! He had thrush in his mouth, a sore red little bum, and I had it all over my chest where he nursed. It was rough and I was heartbroken for him. It just killed me.

    Besides those antibiotics, I’m happy to say that none of my 3 kids (6 and under) have never had an antibiotic. I just make sure they rest, get plenty of sleep, and eat healthy. And when they do get a little fever we eliminate all sugar and dairy immediately until it’s gone.

  9. I agree. My children had a lot of ear infections when they were little. I didn’t want continued antibiotics, so we went to tubes. The congestion continued, so the doctor wanted to administer long term decongestants. I didn’t want that either, so I began to investigate alternatives. The Green slime only ran if my kids ate dairy & sugar products.

    An Army mom with 6 kids shared a wonderful remedy for ear ache/infection ( only works with no tubes) Lay the child on their side, put a towel under their head. Pour a small amount of hydrogen Peroxide in the affected ear. Let foam & bubble for a few minutes. drain, repeate as neccesary. Follow up with garlic oil, tincture of lobelia or onion juice (from a fresh onion) The onion seems to work best, very antiseptic. Seal the ear with a cotton ball for a day. When I started this, it would take 2-3 rounds of ear infections to get off the merry-go-round and have my child’s ear infections dissapear. The pain relief in the middle of the night was almost instant. I shared it with my pediatrician at the time. He thought it was a great idea. Good man.

    This works with wax build up too. Also works on adults…

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