Last Monday night, around dinner time, Meghan started tugging on her ear. The rest of the night she pulled and tugged, but when we asked her if her ear was hurting, she said no.
The next morning she finally admitted that her ear did hurt, and the tugging continued. I did what any diligent parent would do, I called her doctor. An appointment was made for later that day and off to school she went.
While she was at school, I pondered what this trip to her doctor would entail. She’d never had an ear infection and I knew if that’s what this was, antibiotics would be quickly prescribed. I’d read about the over-prescribing of antibiotics, especially for ear infections, so I did some more research to see how necessary they were for ear infections.
Here’s what I found out:
- Ear infections can be viral or bacterial. Doctors don’t know which type of infection it is when they prescribe the antibiotics, so there is always the chance that the antibiotics are being prescribed in vain for a viral infection. (Antibiotics clear up bacterial infections, viruses just have to run their course)
- Antibiotics don’t just attack bad bacteria, but also wipe out good bacteria, which leaves the person susceptible to more sickness for a time after the antibiotics have been taken and the good bacteria can be restored.
- Studies have shown that children who are given antibiotics for ear infections are more likely to have recurring ear infections and eventually need tubes.
- Many ear infections will clear up on their own within 4-7 days (the newest research suggests that 80% will clear on their own).
- The overprescribing of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance, a growing problem.
Armed with this knowledge, I knew I was going to hesitate to give Meghan antibiotics, even if she was diagnosed with an ear infection.
Sure enough, after inspection of her ears, her doctor said she had a mild infection in the right ear that she’d been tugging. She pulled out her script pad and joyfully told Meghan that she was going to prescribe her the “bubblegum antibiotic”. No doubt filled with artificial flavors and colors. Fantastic.
I cleared my throat and quietly asked what she thought about taking a “wait and see approach”. I think she was initially surprised at my proposition, but had no problem waiting a few days to see if the infection would clear on its own. She requested we return on Friday for a follow up and sent us on our way.
In the meantime, I consulted a friend, Nicole, that I trust in her knowledge of alternative treatments to see what approach she’s taken with her own children. She recommended Wally’s Ear Oil as a treatment or preventative measure.
We got some of the oil and used it on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning. At Meghan’s follow up appointment, her infection was gone. It could have cleared on its own, or it may have been helped by the ear oil. Either way, I’m extremely glad we avoided antibiotics this time.
So my title may be a bit misleading, perhaps forgoing antibiotics for a mild ear infection doesn’t exactly make me a rebel parent. But it did feel good not to blindly follow the doctor’s advice.
Clearly, I would have looked at this situation differently if Meghan would have been in a lot more pain. I would do anything to keep this smile on her face.
I am not a medical professional and this post is not intended to be medical advice. I do think, however, everyone should do their own research and make informed decisions about their own family’s health.
Question: How do you approach ear infections or other common childhood illnesses?