I can completely admit that when it comes to health issues, I’m something of a worrier. Those runny noses and hacking coughs, I stress so much that they’re going to morph into sinus infections and pneumonia. Personally, I would rather take a trip to the doctor so that he can assuage my fears and calm my conscious, letting me know to take a deep breath and ride out whatever bug is plaguing my daughter.
The problem, of course, with visiting the doctor so often is that most parents expect to leave with a cure in hand. Or a prescription for a cure. And most doctors, afraid of not covering all the bases, missing a minor detail, getting sued, or simply angering their patient, prescribe those “cures” in the form of antibiotics. Even when the antibiotics are unnecessary and ineffective.
The over-prescription and use of antibiotics are why some people are warning about the “Antibiotic Apocalypse.” The Atlantic has a piece outlining all the reasons why your kids don’t need so much amoxicillin, and just what kind of harm you’re doing to world at large when you get overboard with the meds.
Every year, more and more children with viral illnesses are given unnecessary antibiotics, and as a result, the bacteria floating around in our bodies get exposed to those antibiotics and evolve, gaining resistance to even our most powerful antibiotics. Reports of these drug resistant bacteria are increasingly alarming.
Fast forwardÂ a few yearsÂ and many fear there will be no life preservers left to toss to our kids, at which point we could be back where we were 100 years ago, watching people die from what are currently nuisance illnesses easily cured with a pill.
It’s a scary idea. It’s one we would all like to avoid. But I’m not sure if we’ll be able to without a concerted effort from both parents and doctors to get more realistic about the minor illnesses children often face. Parents have to trust that their doctors know when real medicine is needed. And doctors need to stop sugar-coating things to placate anxious parents.
I have to admit that I’m lucky. The family doctor that treats my daughter and me now is the same doctor that delivered me 27 years ago. We have an extremely trusting relationships and I know that he won’t prescribe something in case we really need it.
But when my daughter was first born, we went to a pediatrician briefly. That doctor made me feel incompetent and insecure. We didn’t have a great relationship. And I’m pretty sure that I received more than a couple, “Here’s a prescription, get out of my hair,” medications before we finally left for our GP.
Sure, calling the over-prescribing of antibiotics an “apocalypse” might be a scare tactic. But no matter what we label it, it’s a serious problem. And it’s going to take parents and doctors working together to fix it. So find a physician you trust and then listen when they say, “Sorry, I think this is viral and we’ll just have to wait it out.”