When Athena was a baby she got an infection on her face. I ignored it for several days but finally took her to our favorite doctor in Massachusetts, whose office was in Hadley.
“So, what’s wrong with the baby?” He asked me, as he scrubbed his hands in the sink in the examining room.
“That’s what I came here to ask you,” I said.
“Tell me what you think.”
“Okay,” I took a deep breath and realized I was genuinely glad he was asking. “I think she has a bacterial infection. I think it’s probably staphylococcus but I’m not sure.”
“Right!” Dr. W. slid the rolling chair close to Athena, who was on my lap, and looked carefully at her face. “So what should we do about it?”
“That’s what I came here to ask you,” I laughed.
“You tell me,” Dr. W. said.
“Okay,” I took another deep breath and felt sorry that Dr. W. was already married. “I think, honestly, that it might not need to be treated but I’m not sure. It’s too far gone to respond to a topical medication so to treat it we would have to give the baby an oral antibiotic and I’m not sure I want to do that, especially since I’m allergic to penicillin.”
“Right again,” Dr. W. said. “Here’s what we are going to do. I’m going to write you a prescription for a broad-spectrum antibiotic. You decide if you want to fill it or not but you’ll have the prescription. I feel comfortable waiting 48 hours. If the infection gets worse or if the baby gets a fever or if you find you’re just too worried, I want you to put her on this antibiotic. But maybe–and I’m not sure about this so don’t quote me–it will clear up by itself.”
He ripped the script off the pad and handed it to me. I took the prescription and left. I filled it at the pharmacy on the way home. Somehow I felt better having the medicine in hand.
But we didn’t give the antibiotic to Athena. We waited. The infection did not get worse. We waited another day. I fretted and wondered if I should start feeding the pink syrupy medicine to her. But after two days the infection still had not worsened and Athena did not have a fever. A few days later the skin that had been so red and angry started to dry out. It turned brownish and started to flake off. Her face looked terrible, like she’d been eating chocolate and smeared it on her cheeks. But slowly, with only the help of her own immune system, the baby healed.
The overuse, overprescription, and misuse of antibiotics has become such a problem that Western medicine seems to actually be breeding deadly bacterial infections that are immune to treatment. A New York Times article by Andrew Pollack, “Rising Threat of Infections Unfazed by Antibiotics,” which appeared on February 27, 2010, reports that tens of thousands of hospital patients may be dying each year from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
Pollack writes: “[Acinetobacter baumannii] is one of a category of bacteria that by some estimates are already killing tens of thousands of hospital patients each year. While the organisms do not receive as much attention as the one known as MRSA — for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — some infectious-disease specialists say they could emerge as a bigger threat.
That is because there are several drugs, including some approved in the last few years, that can treat MRSA. But for a combination of business reasons and scientific challenges, the pharmaceuticals industry is pursuing very few drugs for Acinetobacter and other organisms of its type, known as Gram-negative bacteria. Meanwhile, the germs are evolving and becoming ever more immune to existing antibiotics.”
An incompetent doctor once prescribed an antibiotic for Hesperus for an ear infection she did not have. Hesperus was crying and fussy from missing her nap while we waited for more than an hour for a Well Baby visit. The doctor saw that her ears were red–from crying–so she told me, “I think Miss Hesperus has an ear infection,” and prescribed an antibiotic and “something for the pain.” That was the last Well Baby visit we’ve ever taken a child to.
Doctors are way too quick to prescribe antibiotics and parents are way too quick to give them to their children when they’re completely unnecessary.
There are so many healthy ways to boost a child’s immune system. We need to make sure our children get enough rest. We need to breastfeed our children for as long as possible (I’d say three years is a good minimum). We need to feed our children healthy food instead of giving them the pesticide-laden, Red-Dye-#40-tainted, nutrition-less crap advertised on TV and served up in most school cafeterias. We need to drink raw, unpasturized milk and make raw, organic vegetables a good part of our diets. We need to hug our children and make sure they get lots of affection every day, and that they have lots of grown-ups in their lives who tell them they love them and take the time to listen to their fears and their dreams.
While the overuse of antibiotics is a boon for drug company profits and for organisms with unpronounceable names like Acinetobacter baumannii and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, it is deadly for us humans.
Giving any medication to a child, especially antibiotics, should be a last resort.