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February 06, 2012

The Antibiotic Dilemma

In our pill-seeking society, a medical visit hardly seems complete unless we are prescribed some drug for what ails us. Much of the time, the prescription is for an antibiotic— drugs that have been widely overused for conditions which they cannot even help. Ailments not caused by bacteria (i.e. caused by viruses) do NOT respond to these drugs. Antibiotics kill our “good” bacteria, disrupt healthy body function and make us more susceptible to future infections for up to 12 months. Most importantly, they make us vulnerable to potentially deadly epidemic from antibiotic-resistant infections

Think Twice Before Taking an Antibiotic

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) openly admits that it’s hard to differentiate between a bacterial or viral infection. Simply looking up the sinuses, down the throat or in the ear isn’t enough. Doctors should be doing a culture or “rapid antigen test” to determine if an infection is actually bacterial or not. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic without the proper test or worse, prescribes one over-thephone you have just become a potential victim of negligent medical care!

In fact, as the CDC attempts to control this epidemic it states on it’s website: “Are you aware that colds, flu, most sore throats, and bronchitis are caused by viruses? Did you know that antibiotics do not help fight viruses? It's true. Plus, taking antibiotics when you have a virus will do more harm than good." 

In an urgent plea to physicians to stop over-prescribing antibiotics, the CDC states, “We want Americans to get smart about the proper use of antibiotics. People infected with antibiotic-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer, more expensive hospital stays, and may be more likely to DIE as a result of the infection.” Despite these warning, pediatricians alone write more than 10 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions every year (Pediatrics, Nov. 7, 2011). Most of these prescriptions are written for kids with ear infections, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, the flu, asthma and allergies.

Overuse often occurs because of an incorrect diagnosis, which is a common event with ear infections. As a result, antibiotics are prescribed, “just to be on the safe side". Dr. Aditya Gaur, who has studied antibiotic prescribing at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, said parents should always ask doctors why their kids are getting any medication, including antibiotics. If your doctor suggests an antibiotic, ask them to do a culture to confirm the diagnosis and ask if it would be safe to wait several days rather than starting the antibiotic right away.

Childhood Ear Infections

In 2004, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians, warned doctors to stop over-prescribing antibiotics for ear infections. Yet, this continues to be the most common reason why kids are prescribed antibiotics. New studies suggest these drugs do virtually nothing to help most kids recover faster and it raises the risk of side effects.

  • Children treated with frequent antibiotics for ear infections have a risk THREE TIMES greater for developing antibioticresistant infections (Journal of the American Medical Assoc.).
  • 80% of children recovered from ear infections without antibiotics. When the drugs were given, the number of kids who recovered rose by only 12%. However, up to 20% would also develop side effects related to the antibiotics
  • Deaths from drug-resistant meningitis have been linked to antibiotic resistance from previous treatment for ear infection.

Understanding Bacteria

The human body is full of helpful bacteria. In fact, if it wasn't for certain bacteria in your body, you would become sick and potentially die. For instance, the digestive tract is full of these helpful bacteria. Essentially, these bacteria serve two purposes - they help prevent other harmful bacteria from growing and they help humans digest their food.

In the case of “harmful” bacteria it is the competency of your body's own immune system that determines whether or not you will get sick. These bacteria and viruses are attracted to certain people or "environments" where they can thrive. This occurs when the body is not functioning properly, is in a state of dis-ease and therefore, making a perfect “host environment” for these microbes. This explains why one person in the family “catches” every bug around or one child has chronic ear infections while the others do not. They are not "victims" randomly selected by germs but rather they are a perfect "host" for the ever-present germs.

In the case of ear infections, the muscular eustachian tube often becomes closed, creating a stagnant environment in the inner ear and a perfect “host” for bacteria. If you use a “western medicine” approach you are either going to take antibiotics to kill the bacteria or you are going to cut a hole in the eardrum, insert a plastic tube and “clean” or drain the inner ear. This approach treats the effect while ignoring the cause.

If your body is functioning at it’s optimum, it naturally resists bacteria and other microbes. This is true with ANY microbe whether it manifests as a cold, flu, swine flu, ear infection, pneumonia, bronchitis, mono, meningitis and yes, even the AIDS virus. This is why only a handful of those directly exposed to a certain microbe will ever develop that disease. If you have a strong immune system and internal resistance you can "fight off" even the most deadly disease!

Parents and families should focus on prevention and building a healthy immune system. Take part in any healthcare decision and ask why when an intervention is being suggested.

Facts About Antibiotics

  • Antibiotics only work on bacteria not viruses
  • Infections cannot be properly diagnosed by looking up your sinuses, down your throat or in your ear.
  • Antibiotics kill our “good” bacteria, disrupt digestion and make us susceptible to stronger infections for up to 12 months.
  • Antibiotic abuse is first on the “medical overuse list” and account for nearly 30% of healthcare spending in the U.S. (Archives of Internal Medicine, Jan 23, 2012). • Deaths from drug-resistant meningitis have been linked to antibiotic resistance from previous treatment for ear infection.
  • Antibiotics are most often prescribed for acute bronchitis "despite evidence of little or no benefit." (European Journal of Respiration, Dec. 2011)
  • $1.1 billion is spent each year on unnecessary or useless antibiotic prescriptions for upper respiratory infections (Reuters Health).
  • The U.S. spends nearly $2 billion a year to treat drug-resistant bacteria.
  • More than 10 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written each year by pediatricians (J Ped, Nov 2011)
  • Antibiotics make us vulnerable to potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant infections which, claim more lives each year than the "modern plague" of AIDS

For Healthy Immune Function...

  • Eat a whole food diet
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise
  • Get 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep
  • Avoid refined foods, dairy and refined sugars
  • And most importantly...get a regular upper cervical check-up to keep your immune system in top shape!!

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