Parents are becoming increasingly anxious about the use of antibiotics, particularly if they are trying to bring up their baby in a safe and natural way. While there is no doubt that antibiotics, play a vital role in fighting life-threatening diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia, their inappropriate or repeated prescription is giving rising cause for concern among some medical experts and scientists. Antibiotics work by killing or stopping the growth of bacteria that cause infections. Though they may be effective in the short term, they have a number of side effects—such as nausea, diarrhea, yeast infection, and allergic reaction—and can even cause recurring bouts of the illness if used inappropriately, you can ask your doctor if antibiotics are necessary for mild infections.
Causes for Concern
• Antibiotics can appear to cure an illness in the short term, only for it to return later, possibly in a more virulent form. This creates a vicious circle of infection and antibiotic use. If doctors aren’t sure about the cause of an illness, they often play safe and prescribe an antibiotic. They may also prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily for viral illnesses such as sore throats, colds, coughs, and some forms of chest infection, such as bronchiolitis.
• Overuse of antibiotics has meant that some infections that used to be easy to treat are now difficult to cure, for the bacteria responsible have become resistant to the drug by making genetic changes to themselves. Superbugs have developed that are resistant to four or more antibiotics, so the infections they cause are particularly difficult to treat.
• Antibiotics may kill not only harmful bacteria, but also the helpful bacteria that inhabit our bodies. This upsets the body’s natural equilibrium and allows a new infection to develop. For example, yeast is a fungal infection that is usually kept in check by helpful bacteria but that often develops after a course of antibiotics. Some research has linked outbreaks of meningitis with overuse of antibiotics.
What you can do
• If an antibiotic is prescribed for your baby, tell the doctor you would prefer not to give one unless it is really necessary. Depending on the seriousness of the illness, he may suggest you wait for 24 hours or give you a prescription you can use later if your baby doesn’t show signs of recovery.
• Give the antibiotics as prescribed and complete the course. Antibiotics kill off the most susceptible bacteria first, leaving the most resistant. If you stop halfway through the treatment, you leave behind the stronger bugs, which cause a recurrence of the symptoms.
• Give your baby acidophilus powder (available from health-food stores) daily during the course of the antibiotics. This may help to restore the normal bacteria in the gut that are killed by the antibiotics, reducing the risk of side effects such as diarrhea or overgrowth of yeast.
• If your baby’s doctor doesn’t feel urgent medical attention is required, try a natural remedy. They all work at boosting the body’s immune system so it can do the healing work.