Avoiding antibiotics

Time to crawl out from under this rock and return to writing.  The past seven days took their toll.

I [barely] survived three days home alone with a sick and needy baby (while sick myself, of course).  Every feeding brought the fear that he would cough hard enough to gag and vomit, which happened at least once a day, and all the mucous going through his system led to some interesting results from the other end, as well.

A comment by one of his caregivers that his cough sounded croup-like sent us to the doctor on Wednesday morning.  The “good” news: just a bad cold with a “junky” cough.  The bad news: mild ear infection in the right ear.

The pediatrician apologetically recommended antibiotics.  I asked if we could wait and see if it cleared on its own, knowing that many ear infections are viral, in which case antibiotics are completely useless and unnecessary.  She agreed, on the condition that we return in three days for a recheck, to make sure the infection was not progressing.

I took a copy of the prescription and returned home to deliberate: Just fill the darn prescription, which would probably cost us $5, or try to avoid unnecessary antibiotics (and the fun that goes with them, like diarrhea and/or constipation and secondary infections from eliminating the “good” gut bacteria), at the cost of an extra $25 office visit copay, not to mention the time and effort of a return visit?  Quite frustrating when the better-for-health decision is significantly less convenient AND more expensive.

Still, after some discussion, Matthew and I opted for the wait-and-see approach, and I made the follow-up appointment.  For the next three days, we applied warm compresses to The Dude’s ear and throat.*

Feeling worn down and negative, I fully expected bad news at Gabriel’s follow-up visit on Saturday, so I was pleasantly surprised when Matthew reported that, while not entirely cleared, the infection was “heading in the right direction,” no antibiotics needed.

Warm Compress Method**
Wet a clean washcloth, then ring out excess water.  Fold in half, then in thirds.  Place the washcloth in the microwave and heat for about 20 seconds.  Carefully remove the hot washcloth.

Test the temperature on your own ear before applying to baby’s ear (remembering that baby’s skin will be extra sensitive) — err on the side of caution with the temperature.

Hold warm, damp washcloth over affected ear and side of the throat until the cloth cools.  This will help drain the ear, facilitating the body’s efforts to fight the infection.  Repeat several times throughout the day.

*The warm compress is actually recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  (I don’t always agree with all of their recommendations, but sometimes they get it right.)
**This is not intended as medical advice, nor should it replace consultation with your health care provider.


  1. good for you to trust your instincts melissa! ive heard more cases of antibiotics causing more trouble for babies than actually being helpful in the long run.

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Yes, it’s a delicate balance — when used appropriately antibiotics can certainly save lives, but despite some progress, they tend to be over-prescribed, because we have a society where we just want a pill to make everything better. Then there is the issue of not taking them as prescribed (e.g., stopping before completing the full course).

      I’m still kind-of holding my breath until his cold is completely gone, but we do seem to be headed in the right direction.

      We got bullied into unnecessary antibiotics in the hospital when Gabriel was first born, so I’m extra cautious now.

  2. Nupur says:

    I can hardly believe this- because on Monday I took my baby (wet cough all weekend) to the doc and she was diagnosed with a bad cold and ear infection in her right ear! They prescribed antibiotics and I must say I did not have the courage to wait and see but started her on them. And of course I am sick too, but with a very bad case of tonsillitis and on antibiotics myself 😦 Thanks VERY much for the warm compress info.

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      So sorry to hear that your household is sick, too. I feel like I’ve never been sick as much as I have this winter, and as a new mom, it’s hard to get the rest I need to get healthy and stay healthy. I’m sure you understand that. Hope the warm compresses help and everyone is feeling better soon!

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