• My family recently went through a heavy bout of illness. Just a cold, I thought initially. After weeks of coughing and wheezing, maxing out school absences and really putting a wrench in our plans (we had to cancel a trip that had non-refundable airline tickets), I realized that this was one of those superbugs I was hearing about in the news. I doubted myself if I had made a mistake by not getting antibiotics sooner, and was wondering, how do I know when I need to get antibiotics for my kids? I try to avoid them as much as possible after reading about the dangers of the overuse of antibiotics from multiple reliable sources. But did we need them this time?

    Unable to miss any more work, my husband went to see a doctor and was given a broad-spectrum antibiotic and a steroid nasal spray. I got my answer because the antibiotics didn’t work for him. He healed within the same time-frame as the rest of us. Apparently, we had a virus, a super-bug, what the local health authorities were coining the 100 day cough (because that is how long the cough seemed to last). These Superbugs comprise of a family of supergerms that have become immune to modern medicine’s most powerful classes of antibiotics. In which case you just have to let the virus run its course. Still, I was curious to know why and how superbugs were contagious and what we could do to help prevent their spread. I learned there a few things that can be done in addition to the usual precautions (see our Playdate article Treating a Common Cold Cough):

    • 1. Ask your doctor to give you a specific antibiotic for your strain of illness versus a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which may indicate that they’re just shooting in the dark and not really sure what you have. This might require some lab work and a short waiting time for the labs to come back but at least you will know if you need the antibiotic or not.
    • 2. When you do take antibiotics, TAKE THE ENTIRE COURSE of the prescription. Don’t stop just because you feel better. Otherwise, your illness could come back stronger than ever.
    • 3. When given an antibiotic, ask why? Some doctors are responsible with being careful about not over-prescribing. But others are concerned with liability if they don’t prescribe it. Asking why you need it, before taking it, will help you make a more informed decision. Sometimes you really need an antibiotic. Even though my husband didn’t need it, we didn’t want to take the chance since the infection was in his ear. He figured that protecting his hearing was worth the risk, so he decided to take the antibiotic.
    • 4. Avoid antibacterial soaps. Use antibiotic creams sparingly. Regular soap and water can do wonders when used consistently.
    • 5. Eat meat that doesn’t have antibiotics. Create a demand for it at your local grocery store or restaurants. Organic meat is one type where the animals aren’t given routine antibiotics. There are some non-organic meats that also partake in this preferred livestock rearing philosophy. Yes, it’s a little expensive. So, eat smaller meat portions and both your stomachs and wallet will thank you. Make the request, create the demand and vote with your dollar!