How to help everyone prevent the looming "antibiotic apocalypse"
We're looking for a new pediatrician, and, over coffee with friends, recommendations started flying. When it came out that our 14-year-old son had never taken antibiotics, the conversation stopped on a dime.
"What about for ear infections?" one said.
"Hasn't he ever had strep?" said another.
"Never?" said the third.
We were surprised—is this fact really so shocking? Granted, we have been very lucky. Our son has never been in a major accident, needed surgery, or contracted any major illnesses. He was born healthy, he was breastfed, and he got his vaccines. He's had his fair share of colds and a particularly scary case of flu, but never, not even once, required antibiotics.
Our friends are smart, highly educated people who know that antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. They know that most colds are caused by viruses. But they are also dedicated parents who would do anything for their kids, and when a child is sick, clear reasoning can get clouded by fear, desperation, and the lure of a quick fix.
Take a cold, for example, or bronchitis. Our friends know on one level that these are usually caused by viruses, but after a week or two of yuck and snot they've had it—so they call the pediatrician for an antibiotic. The harried doctor knows it's likely viral but doesn't want to fight with yet another parent about antibiotics—so out comes a prescription. "Just in case this thing's bacterial, let's cover our bases," the doctor says, and moves on to the next patient. The child takes the antibiotic, and around the same time the cold would run its course anyway, the child gets better. Everyone is happy, right? No harm done.