Stop taking antibiotics, please

By Mir
April 20, 2009

There are things in this world which I intellectually know to be true, but they remain—in my experience—sort of mythical, anyway, because I have no direct experience with them. Like… oh, I don’t know. Take THE HEARTBREAK OF PSORIASIS. (Anyone remember those commercials?) I’m sure it’s VERY heartbreaking. Anything that warrants the combination of a leading P and then an S is usually something Very Serious Indeed (see also: PSychiatry, PSilocybin, PSalms, PSeudo, and of course, PSHAW). On the other hand, I don’t know anyone who has psoriasis, so I can only imagine the heartbreak it allegedly causes. Similarly, I hear it really sucks to have your seven-figure salary revoked after screwing over the entire country, but I can only barely imagine how terrible that is. I’ll just have to try to imagine it, I guess.

Anyway! My POINT (yes, I have one, honest) is that I’ve been hearing stuff for years about antibiotic overuse and superbugs and I was all, “Yes, yes, blah blah blah, hey, my kid’s got an ear infection! GIMME SOME DRUGS!” I mean, I wasn’t one of those people who wanted an antibiotic for every sniffle, but I didn’t worry about that whole superbug thing. Before.

It’s just that I figured that if WE PERSONALLY didn’t overuse antibiotics, we’d be safe! I mean, isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? (Answer: No, you moron.) But it turns out that APPARENTLY—much like the vaccination issue, where it’s not just YOUR kid, but others who are affected—that even if we’ve used antibiotics sparingly and responsibly, superbugs can still come to roost on my poor, defenseless children because OTHER people have cultivated their massive, hulking, antibiotic-resistant nastiness for us. Swell.

Now. GUESS why this is on my mind today. No, really! Go on! GUESS!!

Remember when my darling boy proved himself bionic by showing only minor signs of illness and turning out to have not only the sinus infection I’d suspected but a bonus ear infection, as well? Wasn’t that FUN? No? You say it SUCKED? Why yes. Yes, it did.

The doctor gave us Zithromax. I like Zithromax for three reasons:
1) The first dose is a double, which (in my experience) leads to quicker abatement of symptoms than a conventional antibiotic, which means more relief, sooner.
2) You only have to take it for FIVE days instead of TEN. But through MEDICAL MAGIC it supposedly works the full ten days, because it’s made from magic and possible centaur sperm.
3) IT WORKS, the end.

As you may recall, I gave Monkey the first dose and took him back to school as he requested and as the doctor said was perfectly fine to do.

The next day I gave him the second dose and sent him to school again. That afternoon he was DECIDEDLY PERKY in comparison to the previous few days, allowing me to marinate in a fresh batch of GUILT for not having realized how sick he’d become in the days before taking him to the doctor.

On the third day, I gave him the third dose and sent him to school yet again. Late that afternoon the doctor’s office called to let me know that Monkey’s brain swab had come back and OH HAHAHAHA, FUNNY STORY! He had strep!

He just had to make sure he really EARNED that Bionic Monkey title, I guess. Naturally, I was horrified. STREP? He has strep?? But I’ve been sending him to school! Because you said I could! And more importantly, he hasn’t said a single word about his throat hurting!

The nurse assured me that everything was fine, and because he was improving on the Zithromax, we should just keep giving it and all would be well.

So I did. And it was.

For… ten days.

For ten days all was well. Well, on the ninth day, one small Monkey was a little cranky. And it’s possible that his mother scolded him for being ornery, because it’s possible that his mother is a moron.

On the tenth day, one small Monkey was a little bit crankier. And his poor father had to put up with him, and wondered why he was being kind of a buttmunch.

On the eleventh day, one small Monkey began to cough, and his father brought him home again and reported that he wasn’t looking so good. This was confirmed by visual inspection and also by the way said child took a shower and dove into bed and commenced snoring inbetween coughs.

On the twelfth day, one small Monkey got up for school and coughed and snuffled and complained that his throat hurts and coughed some more, and he was given various medications and assisted in flushing his sinuses with saline, and finally (somewhere around the time SOMEONE said, “YUCK, is that supposed to be GREEN??”) I had to give up on the denial schtick, and I sent him back to bed and called the doctor.

When last I checked, he’d crawled back under the covers fully dressed and was snoring away.

And I don’t want you to feel bad, or anything, but I’m pretty sure that this variant of strep he has that merely played peek-a-boo with the Zithromax is ALL YOUR FAULT. So please stop overusing antibiotics, because there is nothing more pitiful than my bionic boy succumbing to illness all because YOU had to go and create one of those superbugs.


[Edited to add: Back from the doctor. Strep? Check. Double ear infection? Check. Donut? CHECK.]


  1. Kelly

    Poor poor Monkey. I’m so sorry he is fighting this again. May he rest up and I know you will take wonderful care of him and he’ll be back to happy & perky in no time.

  2. Leandra

    Also, while we’re at it, can you please ask everyone to stop using “antibacterial” everything. Same result. We need SOME germs, people!!

  3. StephLove

    I have a boy like that. He also doesn’t know when he needs to use the bathroom most of the time, no clue, doesn’t feel it.

    I hope he’s on the mend soon.

  4. Crista

    I thought the same thing you did, about not personally overusing antibiotics. HMPH.
    And, what Leandra said!

  5. The Mother

    Yep. Antibiotics are overused. No question.

    Doctors are often between a rock and a hard place. They know that the infection is probably viral, but the patients are adamant that they get drugs, and docs who refuse frequently lose patients to the doc-in-the-box at the corner that gives out antibiotics faster.

    Plus, some things are hard to culture. Sinus infections being one of them.

    In a perfect world, we would always know exactly what caused the infection and treat it appropriately. But we don’t live in that world.

    That’s why medicine is often referred to as an ART.

    Patients also bear a lot of the responsibility for the burgeoning antibiotic resistance. They stop taking their drugs after they feel better, which lets some of the bugs escape. Or, they just reach into their medicine cabinet and start taking something left over from a different illness, which is totally wrong for the bug and leads to superbug creation.

    And I SO agree with Leandra. Those damn antibacterial wipes and rinses are causing an enormous mess.

  6. Aimee

    I am anti-antibiotics, except in the most dire circumstances. I haven’t taken an antibiotic in years, because I haven’t needed one. So you’re preaching to the choir, here. Poor Monkey.

  7. Megan

    Which is why I did my personal best to save the world by allowing my children to roll around in the dirt and lick snakes. Well, okay,not the snakes as a) EW and b) a bit hard on the snake. STILL, no antibacterial paranoia in my house fanks, just de-grunging at the end of each day and a firm belief in the power of tidyness to overcome all.

    Also – doctors offices are very scary bug culture places and I simply don’t like ’em if I can avoid ’em.


  8. Tracy

    Poor sweet little Monkey. It’s best that he rest rather then go to school. Do you feed a cold and starve a fever or vice-versa? I can never remember. I always feed them if they were hungry but made sure they had plenty of liquids and ice cream. Ice cream made every thing better especially sore throats. Get well little Monkey.

  9. Trish

    Gosh, seriously, I thought I was the only one who thought like this! I have endured countless “darts of death” looks from other moms over the years because I let my kids roll in the dirt, put their nuks in my mouth to clean them when they fell on the ground, and basically have refused to make my house a sterile lab. Despite all the “filth”, my kids have been incredibly healthy (knocking wood here.)

    I had bladder reflux as a child and was basically on a constant stream of different antibiotics from the time I was four till age eight. So far, antibiotics still work for me, but I’m terrified that at some point, all those drugs will come back to haunt me. It’s scary!


  10. B

    It seems to me, and I am no doctor, mind you, that every time my kids are on antibiotics, they catch something else. Like their resistance is already low from being sick or something, and so the germs seem to take over and make them sick again with something new?? That, or they picked up some new germ while we were at the doctor’s office. We ALWAYS do that!

  11. Amy-Go

    I hear you, but I’m sick. With a sinus infection of my own. And here’s my thinking: no drugs = feel better in 10 days. Drugs = feel better tomorrow. Sick me + 3 kids = drugs for me. Sorry about contributing to the superbug!

  12. mamalang

    I am anti hand sanitizer, unless I’m doing something like fishing, handling worms and sticking my hands in the lake water, then eating lunch. I actually had a small argument with a mom at a birthday party last year. SHe kept applying hand sanitizer to my sons hands. Every time they sat down. I finally (politely) asked her to stop, she started to lecture, and it escalated a little. I never put her down for it, just asked her to NOT put anymore on my sons (sensitive, prone to dryness and chapping) hands.

    I hear you. I only ask for anti-biotics if they are necessary…

  13. Jill W.

    I try to go easy on the antibiotics (especially since i am allergic to some of them) but I do use hand sanitizer. Alcohol based hand sanitizer (with a concentration of at least 60% alcohol) is very beneficial in helping prevent teh spread of intestinal viruses in particular and does not contribute to the antibiotic resistant superbug problem. I don’t use it constantly– but mostly when my kids and I have been to the grocery store or drugstore.

  14. MomCat

    Sucky. We went through that with my tiny girl when she was one year old, resulting in a week-long hospital stay for both of us. I think antibiotics changed the course of history, but they also scare me.

  15. The Other Leanne

    Yes, antibiotics are overused. And 2) handwashing is underused and c) door handles are undercleaned. Don’t touch anything, but if you do, wash your hands people! Not that I’m compulsive or anything.

  16. KL

    It’s not just using antibiotic when unnecessary, but to use the full course properly when duly prescribed. It’s when they’re 99% dead but not fully killed that the remainder can survive the treatment and make the super bugs…

    But I also don’t use the sanitizers unless I have no alternatives. :)

  17. Katie in MA

    I love when you go all Mama-Bear on us. :) But I’m sorry that Monkey is feeling well. :( I promise that I don’t overuse antibiotics (I’m too cheap to pay the copays if I don’t need to…)

  18. Karen

    Ugh, poor baby, and poor you! I have just one thing to add (don’t we all) watch for rashes and high fever. My son was misdiagnosed (as in his strep test accidentally came back negative-whoopsie) and thus the strep morphed into Scarlet Fever. I thought that went out with the plague, but apparently not. And it was well and truly a frightening experience. Just a little FYI, so that you don’t have to go through what I did.

  19. momzen

    centaur sperm. Where do you get this stuff? Sorry Monkey’s feeling under the weather. My mantra… THIS TOO SHALL PASS. (And then something else will happen).

  20. Anna Marie

    Poor Monkey! I’m a fan of letting the kids eat off the floor and get as dirty as they like in hopes of boosting their immune systems, but my husband is a chronic overuser of hand sanitizer so I’m afraid all my hard work *ahem* is going to be for naught.

  21. Lindsey

    I’ve had that same strep before and when the strep came back after my meds were done I was told there was NO WAY I could get it again. Phish. What do doctors know anyway..

  22. Half Assed Kitchen

    And we need to stop dosing our cattle and chickens with antibiotics too. That’s also a contributor.

  23. Megumi

    Poor Monkey! I hope he is on the mend soon (and hugs and tea for momma bear too).

    After taking one kid off of “preventative antibiotics” for kidney reflux for this same reasoning and having another battle an ear infection for an extended period of time with little to no response to medicine, I hear you loud and clear on this.

  24. Emily

    Ha ha – you said buttmunch. I haven’t heard that one in years.

  25. bob

    poor guy. I will turn down my next antibiotic prescription in his honor.

  26. Barbara

    I sure am glad that an “H” follows both of my “P”s.

    So unlike you to external blame, Mir. Except, I gotta agree, in no way is this your fault.

    Sure are a lot of antibiotic-experienced commenters here. Didn’t the physician prescribe another antibiotic for the strep?
    Just saying.

  27. Cindy

    Poor Monkey! And psoriasis does indeed suck but I wouldn’t label it heartbreaking. (Although I have not seen the commercial and maybe it sheds light?) More of annoying and gross. Also, it is an immune system disorder so they treat with steriods. Which, if you are like me and suffer mightily from allergies to pretty much everything that grows, you already get steriods more often than you are comfortable with. Which kind of ups the suckitude on my meter BUT not as much as the multiple infections Monkey is suffering. (and I can say that with some degree of authority, having said allergies balloon into similar situations several times before having my tonsils removed at thirty. Which is how I found out I’m allergic to pain meds. Good times.)

  28. Sarah

    Sorry Moneky is under the weather again. I am 100% anti-antibacterial anything.

    My kid tested postive for MRSA last time she was inpatient. Now THAT freaking sucks.

  29. Lady of Perpetual Chaos

    Oh no. That is sounding eerily familiar. My bionic daughter Lolly just finished up her antibiotic last Friday and is sick again today. But insists she’s fine. We may be making another visit to the doctor. Or maybe it’s a super nasty version of strep and not a sign of super bugs to come. I lean towards being overtaken by super bugs, myself. Just think…if Lolly and Monkey got married and had children, they would create the super race!

  30. Noelle

    I know where you’re coming from. Last year my son had strep. Ten days of Amoxicillan later he was fine. For nine days. Returned to the doctor, strep still there, here take this Zithromax, he’ll be fine. (My son was 4 at the time) Two days later I noticed my son was sleeping sitting up and doing this funny neck extension thing with his head. It was 11pm. Called the doctor’s office and spoke to the after hours nurse. She told me to look in his throat. I did and hey, I couldn’t see his throat it was so swollen. She told me to call the office in the AM for another appointment. Ten minutes later she calls ME back and says take him to the ER ASAP. Turns out his tonsils had exploded due to the infection and were now BLOCKING HIS AIRWAY! Long story short, a four day hospital stay plus IV antibiotics and steroids later, my son was all better.

    Why didn’t the antibiotics do the trick the first time around? I never missed giving him a dose. Superbug strep.

    Hope Monkey gets better soon.

  31. Andrea

    Hope your little monkey is on the mend.

    I have two your year olds with one three rounds of amoxicillan between them (I felt a little bad about the middle infection, one mentioned her ear hurt, then nothing for two days until I took her to her checkup and the MD said she had an ear infection–yup, Mom of the Year here–anyway, I digress. I do make them wash a lot and use that antibacterial stuff…I don’t want them getting any resistant strains of bacteria that are out there if I can help it(I work in a hospital and that stuff sucks!). On the other hand, I don’t worry too much about eating dirt!

    Anyway, hope he feels better and no one else gets it!

  32. beth

    You did get all the advice about throwing out toothbrushes and stuff? Apparently it is really easy to re-infect yourself with strep. We had a similar go-around; sick kid stayed home from school, finally went to doctor, all good and kid goes back to school, then doctor calls STREP and kid gets yanked out of school.

    So buy new toothbrushes and dance widdershins around the vegetable plants at midnight and perform other healing rituals. That should help defeat the superbugs.

  33. Sara

    Well darn that pstinks! Poor Monkey. I hope he’s on the mend psoon. We had the psame go-round with pstrep with my pson last pspring. And you know what? It PSUCKS!! (I’ve just decided to make all of my words important in the psame way as heartbreaking psoriasis.)

  34. stmbtblog

    I so remember the commercial but can’t say I ever heard of buttmunch. My son’s m.d. threw every drug in the book at him this winter, including a steriod which we never took. Turned out not to be asthma at all but an allergic reaction to his stepmother….sad but true!

  35. TC

    I’ve been on this bandwagon for YEARS. ESPECIALLY about the antibacterial hand soaps and toothpastes (I mean, really?) and such. In fact, my kids’ teachers get a snotty, know-it-all note from me each year when the requested antibacterial soap on the school supply list is replaced with regular non-antibacterial soap.

    Yeah, I’m sure they love me.

    All of which is to say, it’s not MY fault! And I’m sorry Monkey’s feeling poorly. Hope whatever they’re throwing at it this time ’round works a little bit better.

  36. Peds

    Just wanted to further confuse the picture by adding that a lot of people out there are colonized with strep, meaning that whether they go to the doctor with a stubbed toe or a broken arm or a sore throat caused by a virus, if you swab their throats they’ll come back positive for strep, regardless of whether they actually have a strep *infection*. It’s not dangerous or anything you have to do anything about, but it can be very tricky to figure out if/when the strep is actually causing a problem…

  37. Brigid Day

    We recently had a rheumatic fever scare with my 2YO. If another test had come back positive, he would have had to take an antibiotic every day until he was 19. I bawled like a baby in the doctor’s office. Tests came back fine. Whew. Hope Monkey is better soon!

  38. Lauren

    I am so glad you mentioned the neti pot. I had a string of five years with multiple sinus infections (and UTIs) a year, so I used wayyyy too many antibiotics. It got to the point where they would prescribe Cipro (a very serious antibiotic) because it would work the fastest on me.

    Enter the neti pot: If I catch the symptoms before it becomes a sinus infection (i.e. when the mucus isn’t yellow or green yet), I am better in 3 days w/o antibiotics. It’s my miracle anti-drug.

  39. Jenn

    Oooh, ooh, ooh! Actually I know some stuff about BOTH psoriasis AND strep. (Which I bet you had NO IDEA were related!) Couple years ago, I had strep throat… took the antibiotics (well, most of ’em, sorry but it’s hard for me to swallow those big chalky horse pills and I gave up after like… um, 7 days of a 10 day scrip. I sometimes have to learn things the hard way.) So about a week after I stopped taking the antibiotics, I started breaking out all over my body in an itchy red splotchy rash. Turns out there’s a type of psoriasis, called guttate psoriasis, which people sometimes get after a bout with strep, and particularly if you don’t finish your antibiotics (which obviously allows the strep to just come roaring back.) It’s basically your immune system reacting badly to the toxin produced by the strep bacteria.

    Anyway, I ended up having to take Omnicef for about a month, plus steroids, plus slathering myself with different creams night and day, and after about six months it finally went away. I don’t wish that on anyone except the Taliban, and to this day I am absolutely terrified of being exposed to strep, because my dermatologist said if I ever get strep throat again it’ll probably happen again.

    Oh, and you may want to read this regarding antibiotics for strep

    And after Monk’s done with the antibiotics, get him some probiotic capsules. I’ve heard it said that some really high percentage of your immune system is actually in your gut, and antibiotics kill off the good bacteria, so when you take them you need to replace the good guys. Good luck Mir!

  40. Anna

    Don’t worry, my eldest daughter is helping your cause. Tonight, yes, I saw her LICK A FEATHER. I am SO non-germy worry, but YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. tara

    oh, i do hope monkey feels better soon!

    i have a love/hate relationship with antibiotics … or, more specifically, live or die relationship with antibiotics. just today my doc told me to fill that prescription i’ve had for augmentin – a broad spectrum antibiotic – despite the fact that i don’t have any sort of infection right now.

    granted, i also stock self-injections of a white blood cell booster in my fridge. but, the last time i took augmentin for a scratch that got infected on my hand, i ended up in the hospital for a much worse infection because in taking care of the infection (which had a red line and all, so not to be dismissed) we also took care of the good bacteria and left me even more susceptible.

    i wish there were a better answer…

  42. Heather

    Not sure I buy the “doctor has to do it or they’ll lose patients” comment. As antibiotics are overused up here in Canada too where we are facing a doctor shortage and no one in their right mind is going to give up their family doctor if they are so fortunate to have one!

    It’s been going on so long, the overuse of antibiotics, I had ear infections twice a year or more until I was in my 20s. They almost always gave me Amoxicillin until my body decided it was allergic to that …

    Hubby just got over a nasty bout of strep. I haven’t had it in years… thank goodness.

  43. Crista

    DH had strep three weeks ago and the doc said it was the first case he’d seen this year. This was a new doc for us and he said he starts out with the “simplest” med he can and works up from there if that one doesn’t work. I had to laugh because doc prescribed amoxicillin, ok fine, that goes along with starting out small, but *875* mg! It worked, but it’s only been a week since he took his last dose. You all are scaring me that it’s gonna come back.
    p.s. Yes, this is my 2nd comment today :)

  44. Brigitte

    Poor Monkey (and poor you)!

    I remember the old psoriasis ads. I’d call it more irritating and gross (more of a cosmetic problem) than heartbreaking. :-)

    I have to admit, I also feel like if I allow to kid to play in germy, messy stuff and avoid antibiotics when possible, she should be magically immune to the superbugs, because WE didn’t help make them. Hey, she even put some dog’s drooly, dirt-covered frisbee inher mouth yesterday (EW)! All in the name of building up germ-resistance, of course.

    I’ve been super-lucky with her so far, she’s only needed stuff twice in her 4.5 years (now I need to go find some wood to knock on). I hope Monkey is truly better – not just bionically better – soon.

  45. Randi

    I hope Monkey feels better soon!

    To impart my thoughts – I have cousins who are the same age as my children. Their parents make sure that their house is SPOTLESS. They anti-bacteria everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. She vacuums every day and the entire house is spotless, and I do mean spotless.

    Her children are constantly sick.

    My house? Clutter. Dust. And I only vacuum the floor whenever the dog hair threatens to actually become large enough to be a new dog. My children? Fairly healthy, actually.

    The moral of the story? There IS a reason to not clean.

  46. susie

    As we have discovered in our amoxicillan-allergic household, Zithromax just doesn’t always work with strep and the dose is usually doubled for strep. Poor Monkey!

  47. Kelly

    how is Monkey feeling now?

  48. Flea

    Oh Mir. I hope he improves quickly and stays well.

    We’ve never been really keen on antibiotic use either. In fact, even using antibacterial soaps has the effect you hate – building the super bugs.

    I feel your pain. But not Monkey’s, because I don’t have time to hurt that much today. Sorry.

  49. Dulcinea

    I hope your son is feeling better soon. I just want to point out that a large proportion of antibiotic resistance is most likely the result of the HUGE use in agriculture rather than by worried moms and sick little kids. Sub-clinical doses are the standard for raising animals in the ultra-high density common to industrial animal husbandry.

    Love your blog, btw. Just found it today and I have to confess I sprayed my juice all over my computer reading the D for dildos entry.

  50. Emily C

    I blame the cattle industry.

  51. Liz@thisfullhouse

    This would probably NOT be the best time to tell you that my middle girl (now 13) suffered from strep for 8 months and was on 10 different antibiotics before doctors agreed with me in thinking, you know, enough was enough and yanked everything yankible (yes, it’s a word) on the inside, from the neck up, probably.

    [crossing fingers]

    Good luck!

  52. Stacy Away

    I truly hope your little monkey feels better. I have a little monkey of my own, and I need HELP! He JUST got off a full 10 day dose of antiobiotics for a double ear infection and sinus infection that I waited 3 weeks before I took him to the doctor because I HATE giving my boys antibiotics, and now two days after ending the hated antiobiotics,he’s sick again! I fear going back to the doctor, because her solution is always more antiobiotics(the reason I waited 3 weeks the first time!), but my poor little guy just keeps being sick! AAAUUGGHHH!!!
    By the way, you’re a talented writer! Great expressions, keeping it interesting, I read every word when usually I am a speed reader and a skimmer!

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