When antibiotics were first introduced they had an immediate effect, and we saw disease vanishing in no time. This positive effect was ultimately lost with widespread use and knee-jerk prescriptions of antibiotics to treat common colds and respiratory viruses. Bacteria developed resistance to antibiotics and the wonder drug was unable to kill bacteria. Just as new antibiotics were developed, newer strains of bacteria surfaced. To make matters worse, antibiotics have side effects that became more problematic than the disease itself. Antibiotics have an adverse affect on immune system health also.
Antibiotics are not such a bad thing either. We would definitely not like to go back to the pre-antibiotic era. Antibiotics can indeed do wonders in treating disease, but the antibiotic alternative needs to be used sparingly, only when it is unavoidable.
Let us take the example of ear infections, a common problem with children. The specific guidelines state a continued observation and hearing evaluation for a period of twelve weeks before considering any antibiotic treatment for ear ache.
Ear infections can be categorized into two major conditions:
- Acute Otitis Media (AOM) - Pain in the ear with fluid in the middle ear.
- Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) - Only fluid filling in the middle ear.
Since fluid was perceived to be containing bacteria, physicians resorted to prescribing antibiotics indiscriminately, which led to the issuance of specific guidance in regard to OME by government health departments and pediatricians alike.
Even in cases of AOM, antibiotics should be used only after assessing the condition of the child. It is recommended that certain factors be taken into account for such an assessment. Ear infections in older children recover faster and summertime ear infections clear easily. Along with these, the severity of the infection, past history of time taken to recover and initial response to antibiotic should be considered before using antibiotics. A careful assessment can lead to the administration of antibiotics for shorter periods in low risk cases. This ultimately spares the child from side effects and also avoids the danger of his/her body becoming immune to the antibiotic.
On average, a toddler may experience two to three episodes in a year. It is often accompanied by infection of the upper respiratory tract, mostly with common cold. The preferred strategy should be of wait and watch because it may be a case of viral infection, which may go away on its own. Heedless use of antibiotics exposes children to needless risks. If too much antibiotics have gone into the child’s body at a young age, the drug is not going to have any affect when the child grows up.
Rather, our grandparents have been using natural substances to treat common cold, ear aches and other minor ailments without realizing that they are actually using herbal antibiotics, which are safer and there is no risk of bacteria developing resistance to them. Natural substances including herbs for immune system contain complex compounds that cannot be broken by bacteria to use for their own benefit. On the other hand, they strengthen the immune system to increase the body’s capacity to fight disease on its own.