Antibiotics: Please Don’t Ask!


photo credit: carbonnyc


In light of many recent studies showing that antibiotics are no more effective than waiting an illness out, why are doctors still prescribing them so often?

One big reason doctors give is that parents are asking for them.

According to a study published in Pediatrics, physicians will prescribe antibiotics for viral infections 62 percent of the time when asked by a patient, as opposed to only 7 percent of the time when they think a patient does not want them. As parents we want to do what is best for our children and we don’t want to see them suffering in pain and discomfort, so we try to fix what is causing their pain. When it comes to many childhood illnesses, especially ear infections, colds, coughs and some sinus infections, many think antibiotics are the answer though research is now showing that may not be correct. Most of these common illnesses are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotics, or in the case of the majority of ear infections, will resolve in the same amount of time whether antibiotics are administered or not.

Some of you may be thinking ‘Well it must be okay if the doctor prescribes it, right?”

This is not always the case.

Antibiotics are associated with a wide range of side effects, including, but not limited to:

  • Allergic reactions (mild to severe)
  • Diarrhea
  • Yeast infections
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased resistance to future infections
  • Staining of teeth
  • Kidney damage

So why you may ask, with the known side effects and lack of effectiveness, are doctors still writing so many prescriptions?

The answer may be many things from parental pressure, to good marketing by the pharmaceutical companies, to a lack of time to explain things to parents, but many in the natural health field believe a big reason is that they just don’t have any other options. Medical doctors are essentially taught to diagnose an illness and then treat it with a drug. Beyond that they would have to go out of their way to learn more natural treatments and many don’t have time with their already over loaded work and continuing education schedules. This is where educating yourself and/or seeking out alternative health care providers can be a huge advantage for you and your children.

Alternative health care providers like chiropractors and naturopaths have been trained in treating the underlying causes of illnesses instead of simply treating the symptoms. Many will focus on prevention and helping your body come back into balance if you have already went down the antibiotic path. Diet, immune boosting supplements, vitamins, herbs, spinal adjustments, and stress management techniques are some of the things that have been found to positively influence your immune system.

All of this being said, don’t feel guilty if you have previously asked your doctor to prescribe something for your ailing child. There are certainly many instances where antibiotics are effective and necessary. If you or your child has ever been on antibiotics be sure that you are taking a high quality broad spectrum probiotic. This will help with not only with some of the short-term side effects like stomach upset and diarrhea, but also long-term to help rebuild the good bacteria in your gut, helping to better fight off future infections.

In future posts we’ll discuss more specifically some of these alternative treatments and more things you can do to try to prevent these illnesses before they start. In the mean time you can start by educating yourself about your options and fully discussing them with your doctor. Then hopefully your next visit will end with you leaving the office without a prescription in your hand.


  1. My kids’ pediatrician has posters in every exam room and the waiting area advising parents that they will NOT prescribe antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. They also make parents sign a form acknowledging this and most of the points you have listed. Then again, my pediatrician also councils parents on real food, the need for active play outside, etc.

    • @Heather, Where do you live? We may need to relocate! Sounds like a one of a kind ped! What’s his policy on vax?

    • @Heather, That is my kind of doctor! So awesome that you have a great doctor. We try and stay healthy and therefore typically don’t have to go to the doctor. And I have tons of supplements I give my kids when I see they are starting to get sick!

  2. I agree 100% with this! I’m always amazed at how prevalent antibiotic prescriptions are for things that are usually viral, like sinus infections, bronchitis, and the like. I never ask for them, and my pediatrician has only rarely prescribed them. For myself, I never even go to the doctor for a run-of-the-mill virus (cold, flu, stomach virus, etc.) – it’s pointless!

  3. Great post! I personally know a few moms who get angry if their ped. doesn’t prescribe antibiotics after having paid a copay to go see the Dr. How ridiculous is that?

  4. I agree that trying to avoid antibiotics is the best thing…but sometimes you feel like you run out of options — my 7 month old was not feeling well (screaming four nights in a row!). He was congested and running a low-grade fever (>100) so I just thought he had a virus. But by day four when his breathing became quite labored I decided to take him in — I was worried about his breathing! He had ear infections in both ears and was given amoxicillin. A noticeable difference in 12 hours and a major difference in 24 hours! Finally he was able to sleep and help his body heal! “They” say to wait 48 hours before giving antibiotics for ear infections b/c so many are viral and usually clear up in that amount of time. I think we waited that long, so I feel like the antibiotics were probably necessary in this case. However, if I had figured out what was going on sooner I may have been able to avoid them altogether.
    I have since looked into some natural remedies and have them on hand in case we start the cycle again — Willow bark and Garlic ear oil (Herbs4Kids) and Ear Ache tabs (Hylaands).

  5. So true! I wrote an article similar a few months ago. I took my daughter to a Nurse Practitioner a few months back and reconfirmed to myself why I rarely take my children into a traditional doctors office. I had just watched a show (in the doctors office) about how antibiotics are over prescribed and how they should only be prescribed for bacterial infections. The Nurse Practitioner took one look at my daughter told me what she had was viral and wrote her a prescription for an antibiotic like it was no big deal. Luckily I’m educated enough to not give my daughter the prescription but it makes me so mad to see that!

  6. Great information, I will pass it on, not new to me, but it is to a lot of people.

  7. my son’s pediatrician wouldn’t give them. even when I begged. yeah sorry he’d say its just viral wait it out…eventually I learned to not even go in. 5 days, every time it was 5 days of fever. 5 days seems like a long time. but I”d hold out telling myself on the 4th night of a seemingly very hot child…okay tomorrow you can call. and then…I wouldn’t need to. the only two times in three years he was on them (besides his very early birth) he got sick from them with terrible diarreah and a rash so I appreciated the doctor being less hystrionic than I ! 🙂

  8. I do everything in my power to keep them out of our house. My kids are young but I have taught them about the bodies ability to heal itself and that medications aren’t always necessary. Sad thing is I have been fighting this awful infection for weeks and just can’t take it anymore. I rarely go to a doctor (maybe once every few years if even), but today I went to one who knows how I feel about prescriptions. It’s been 7+ years since I have taken an antibiotic, but today that streak had to be broken. I think once in 7 years is ok. I have been so drained and miserable that for once the guilt isn’t getting to me.

  9. Unfortunately, over-use of antibiotics (in ourselves and our meat) is creating superbugs. My family has been battling topical MRSA (antibiotic-resistant staph) since October. We’ve been on the upswing since Christmas, but it is NASTY stuff. My sister’s family, including a toddler and an infant, is on year two of this fight. They’ve been through 5 or 6 prescriptions and several specialists.

    What I’ve learned through these trials is that raw garlic is a pretty fantastic antimicrobial. Like the human body, garlic is complex. It attacks infection with many inter-working chemical compounds, and does not result in resistant strains or dangerous side-effects. Essential oils are also pretty powerful. And, eating real food is truly miraculous.

    I grew up on antibiotics, having chronic respiratory infections associated with acute asthma and allergies. The adverse effects of an antibiotic diet included periodic immune system crashes and frequent candida issues. When we started learning about MRSA, I cleaned all the synthetic drugs and processed food out of our house (sugar, white flour, MSG, preservatives, dyes, etc.) This spring, I am surprised to discover that I am no longer battling mega-allergies, for the first time in my life. 🙂

    All that being said, my 12-month-old had a horrifying bout with pneumonia last winter and antibiotics saved his life. I am certainly grateful. But, from here on out, that’s about the only circumstance under which I’m willing to use them…

    • Donielle says:

      @Noël, I’ve known a couple families that have battled MRSA – not fun at all! Never thought of essential oils for infections, great tip, I’ll have to look that up.

      And oh how I love garlic! Usually eating a few minced cloves a couple days in a row can kick whatever bug I’m fighting. I might stink a little, but at least I’m not sick!


  1. […] “Physicians will prescribe antibiotics for viral infections 62 percent of the time when asked by a patient, as opposed to only 7 percent of the time when they think a patient does not want them.”  Really?!  Antibiotics:  Please don’t ask. […]