If your kids have ever been sick, you know it can go from an annoyance to a fairly scary ordeal pretty quickly. When should you bring your kids to the doctor so we can prevent their symptoms from getting worse? We all want to know when we can nip it in the bud!
Can we prevent progression and spread of illness?
Mom: We’re here because my little one has a cold. It always settles in her ears, so I want to get on top of things and nip it in the bud this time.
Me: Her ears look great today, so keep doing what you’re doing. I’m glad you’ve started giving extra fluids, using saline in her nose, and letting her stay home from preschool to rest.
Mom: But we have family coming into town. They have a new baby, so I don’t want the baby to get sick. Can’t we just have an antibiotic now to help everyone?
Me: There’s no sign of a bacterial infection. She has what’s most likely a cold from a virus. Antibiotics don’t help.
Mom: But can’t we just try? She always gets an ear infection.
Me: It doesn’t work that way. Antibiotics don’t prevent ear infections. They don’t even treat the large majority of ear infections, since they’re viral.
Mom: But we’ll be around a baby.
Me: An antibiotic would give a false sense of security. Your daughter would still be contagious from the virus. Viruses can be very serious in newborns. Your daughter shouldn’t be around the new baby until she’s well.
Mom: But …
This circular conversation can continue indefinately.
I hear requests like this all the time. Unfortunately, illness doesn’t work that way. We don’t give antibiotics to prevent ear infections. They don’t stop the spread of most infections because most are from viruses.
If your doctor gave you antibiotics for your last cold “just in case” and you felt better, it’s likely you would have felt better anyway. That’s what happens with colds.
I realize when your baby has had several ear infections it seems tempting to give a treatment to prevent this cold from turning into another ear infection. But it doesn’t work that way.
- Prevent the spread of viral illnesses.
- Keep an illness from changing from a virus to a bacteria.
- Make all sinus infections go away.
- Treat all ear infections.
- Make people feel better immediately.
- Come without risk.
You take risks every time you use an antibiotic.
We need to use antibiotics wisely. Antibiotics are generally safe and most of us tolerate them well. But sometimes they lead to side effects, such as rashes and diarrhea. They can also cause true allergic reactions.
Over time bacteria can learn how to avoid being killed by antibiotics, called developing resistance. This can put us all at risk of deadly bacterial infections that have no cure.
But we have to get better fast!
- Your teen has finals.
- You must get back to work.
- The baby being up all night fussing is wearing you down.
- Your family has a big trip coming up.
- You’re pregnant and you don’t want a sick family member in the home.
Whatever the circumstance, we can’t make someone not contagious anymore. It takes time for the symptoms of a virus to go away. There’s just no short cut. No way to prevent the natural course and progression.
Next week we’ll talk about what to do when you or your family is sick and how to prevent illness in the first place. (Prevention is always best!)