To Give or Not to Give:Antibiotics!

Somehow, despite what seems like an endless run of minor health issues when Jasper was a baby, we still made it to almost 2.5 years without ever taking antibiotics. Well, actually, that’s not true.  He got IV antibiotics for his first two days of life which I am still not convinced didn’t set him up for a whole host of GI issues, so that’s part of the reason I’ve been struggling with this decision!

It started with a cold about 12 days ago. A fever and crazy runny GOOPY eyes on a Friday. By Monday, his fever had broken and he went back to daycare but the goopy eyes continued.  Every morning he’d wake up with his eyes glued shut, and several times during the middle of the night. That was the other thing, the night waking!  We hadn’t gotten a good night sleep since he got sick, he’d wake up a panic (I guess I would too if I were suddenly “blind!”) but worst of all was his mood.

Oh my god, his mood! I knew rationally that it was probably because he wasn’t feeling quite right, but it was as if Lucifer himself had come and possessed my child. The metldowns, clinginess , fussiness  and grumpiness got so bad that we half thought maybe he was becoming a TERRIBLE two at 2.5 and this was his (unpleasant) new personality.

Then two days ago while we were getting ready for daycare he kept rubbing his eye and couldn’t stop. His eyes had been swollen and irritated by the endless crusty goop but this was getting pretty bad so I brought him into the pediatrician. I have a VERY hands off pediatrician,  their advice 99% off the time is to let it run it’s course so I don’t bother bringing him in too often, but I wanted to make sure that the eye rubbing wasn’t something he needed a cream for and that the beautiful drool rash on his chin wasn’t impetigo or something that needed treatment.

I wasn’t surprised when she said he had a very red inner ear on one side, but I didn’t know he was also running a low grade fever. True to their philosophy, she advised waiting it out but filling a Rx for Amoxicillan in case his fever spiked or he took a real turn for the worse (by which I guess they meant constant crying or something?)

So for the last day or two we have debating weather to give the Rx or not.. when he would do something cranky or mean I would be like “that’s it, he’s taking the antibiotics!” but then he’d seem ok so I would hold off. I can’t remember what it was last night that was the final straw.. I think it was how irritated his eyes were getting from the crust and goop and I finally gave in and gave him the bubblegum flavored pink stuff.

This morning, after SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT for the first time since he got sick his eyes weren’t glued shut in the morning! Even his drool rash seemed diminished and his mood was greatly improved. It was like I had my playful fun little guy back!  I’m so glad I finally gave in, particularly since he was running a fever again this morning of 99.2. The infection seemed to be hanging in there, and I just want us all to enjoy the holidays and have him be as much himself as possible.  And oh my god did we need that good night’s sleep!

But this whole situation got me thinking about how conflicting the information is about ear infections and antibiotics.. some say to wait, some say to give it least an eardrum burst and it all boils down to the fact that no one RELALY knows and we as parents end up playing doctor and “going with our gut.”

We’ve been really fortunate that this is the first time that trouble in his ears has effected his mood enough to warrant medication, but I know that’s unusual, so I’m curious as to when you all decide to medicate vs. waiting it out?

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Mary says:

I tried too leaving it a bit, then it turned into a double ear infection during his first birthday. Woops! We were given the same antibiotics and it cleared up fast! Next time, I won’t hesitate to do this again like I did. But it was our first ear infection and those can be hard to figure out as more teeth were coming in.

Ava says:

You know… I’d like to say that I’m a self-healer type of person, but every time G has been sick I’ve been asking for what will help him get well the fastest.
Ironically, yes, I’m a delayed vaccination parent. Not because I don’t believe in vaccines, I do, but because I’m fine to give the boys 1-2 shots every month, rather than 4 all at the same time.
Also, for myself I don’t take meds unless I have to and feel miserable, so yes, it’s a double standard. I won’t take anything for me if I feel I can deal, but I won’t stand to see my boys in even an ounce of illness-inflicted pain.

I’m sorry you guys have been so sick! G’s first ear infection was an eye goop one too, and I was shocked to hear that ear pain could do that to your eyes. Oh, and we’ve done antibiotics for him for each ear infection too. S and I both had them terribly as children, and it’s one thing we don’t mess with.

Happy Holidays!

Jenny says:

We also have a very hands off, homeopathic family doctor and for Lucas’s last ear infection they prescribed
-colloidal silver (2 droppers in mouth daily)
-oil of oregano (1 drop in mouth daily or 2 drops on bottom of feet daily)
-garlic oil (2 drops in each ear 3x day)

We have, unfortunately, done antibiotics before and I have never seen his ears and mood clear up more quickly than with the above remedy. Something to check out!

Angela says:

I had lots of ear infections as a child, and was always given antibiotics. I don’t know that they really always helped. Fortunately, my son only had one as a baby/toddler, and I have the same idea you do. Go with your gut. I think if something can run its course, and your body can make its own antibodies to fight it, you’re better off in the long run. Of course, sometimes the body needs a little help and that’s where the prescription antibiotics come in to play. I’m not a doctor, but my personal belief is that when they’re needed, they’re needed, use them, but if it’s something the body can manage on its own, and make itself stronger by doing so, let it. Sounds like you made the best choice for your situation.

kennedy says:

I could have written this post! Last week my daughter came down with a fever on Friday (and hadn’t slept well the night before) and was extremely fussy. The fever was on and off throughout the weekend and went away on Sunday, but the fussiness, sleeplessness and snotty nose persisted. Sure enough, I found out on Monday that she has her first ear infection. I hemmed and hawwed over filling the prescription and finally did it on Tuesday night after daycare said she’d been pulling at her ear and fussing all day. Poor thing.

Wouldn’t you know, after a week of NOT sleeping at night, she has slept for two nights in a row now! That proves to me that we (and you!) made the right decision. Now that she’s had an infection, I won’t hesitate as long next time. I feel awful that she was suffering with painful ears for 4-5 days before I did anything but I didn’t know!

Judy N says:

I agree with the article above, too…ear infections are very frequently viral, and after the age of 2, it’s fine to do the wait and see approach. Now, one thing I’ll tell you is that your choice to start the antibiotics and the natural course of Jasper’s infection getting better was probably coincidental…after 1 dose of amoxicillin (you said you gave it last night and this morning he was better?)…it’s impossible for the antibiotic to work that quickly to kill all the bacteria. Chances are his body had taken care of the virus and he would have gotten better. It takes 5 doses of antibiotic to get to a steady state level in the body, and with a true bacterial infection, you really woulnd’t see much significant improvement for at least a day or two!

Gillian says:

Unfortunately Tristan has had a lot of ear infections…some double infections. Pretty much every cold he gets turns into ear infections. The onset of a fever indicates an ear infection for us almost definitely. He has been on amoxicillan (sp?) each time. It almost immediately brings down the fever within 24 hrs and there is a considerable difference in him. I wish he didn’t need the antibiotics, but it does help him fight off the infections….my only fear is also that he will build a tolerance to them because he is one them each time he has an ear infection, which is every few months :( The best advice is to do what you feel most comfortable with. You always have Jasper’s best interests at heart and thats all you can do.

aimee says:

My daughter at 22 months has needed antibiotics twice. Both times she has had allergic reactions to them. The first was with amoxicillin which gave her hives all over her body and the second time with azrithromycin which caused a fiery red rash on her rear days 3-5 within an hour of taking the meds. I am not sure if I should be more cautious of the antibiotics or the dye and additives in them. Next time she “needs” them we are using a compounding pharmacy so that we only get the antibiotics and not the other crap. I do think that people are quick to jump on antibiotics. I had two c-sections and was given NO antibiotics for them and I recovered with no infections.

molly says:

My second son recently got tubes due to severe recurring double ear infections. He had them since birth and it was not fun to watch a tiny baby suffer through them.

We talked long and hard with doctors because we knew the risks associated with infants receiving anesthesia. But ultimately decided to go ahead because he had been on all kinds of antibiotics and I didn’t like where his future was headed. Plus, I read studies that showed the negative effects of anesthesia came from long surgeries with longer exposure.

I can’t say the ear infections have stopped. BUT, we can now avoid oral antibiotics. We have antibiotic ear drops that we can drop in his ear and get it right to the source of the problem.

I never thought I’d have my hands full with such a sick baby and I know it could be much worse so I am thankful it’s only ear infections and a case of baby asthma. But I was willing to do anything to stop his pain. The screaming bloody murder every night just broke my heart and we had to make some tough decisions.

Hope it’s Jasper’s one and only ear infection. They are NO fun at all!

1/2 a dozen says:

Ariana, I have 6 kids and I don’t think I would have survived this long without antibiotics!!! I don’t turn to them immediately at the first sign of infection. I like to give the body a chance to fight whatever’s going on by itself without running to meds first. But I think there’s too much hoopla out there about whether to give meds or not. As a mom, trust your instincts. I usually wait til about day 2 of the lucifier type behavior. I can’t take anymore than that. If nothings improving, I opt for antibiotics. Like you mentioned, usually overnight a 25-50% change can be seen. Good luck with your little man. He’s beautiful by the way. I’ve been a blog follower since you were prego with him!

chantal says:

We’re going through the goopy eyes here – first Annora last week, and today Kai woke up with his eyes sealed shut so he’s getting drops (too little for an oral medication).

I’m very for antibiotics when my kids are sick. I’m not huge on using lots of drugs for myself or my family, but Annora had a lot of chest infections earlier in the year and I was afraid she’d follow in my footsteps and be susceptible to bronchitis later in life if we let things go for too long. Plus she was prescribed inhalers and we were afraid she’d have lots of trouble breathing at night without them. I really feel that when your child has a contagious infection (like the eye thing we’ve got going on now) it’s doing a disservice to my other child to not get it taken care of as quickly as possible. I’m not sure if I’d feel differently if there was only one kid though.

Lourdes says:

Great article linked to above. This is exactly what I’d read/been told as well: “For kids under 2 years of age (especially if they are running a fever), I treat ear infections when there is no question that the baby has a really bad ear infection! Those kids are not verbal enough to tell a parent if they are feeling better and have a higher risk of complications from an ear infection (e.g. mastoiditis—a very serious complication where the bacterial infection invades the skull bone and requires surgical drainage and IV antibiotics) that I don’t feel comfortable waiting around to see if they improve without antibiotics.”

For me, a bit of my opinion has changed since having my own ear infection. If you’ve never had one as an adult or don’t remember one from your childhood, let me tell you: the pain is pretty horrific. It drove me to the ER for the first time in my adult life. I’d put it up there with a really bad toothache, which is hellish.

We gave them to Wes last month or so for a double ear infection. The child was just not himself. The one pedi we like and see at the practice is pretty hands off, too, so when HE said he really thought we should go with the antibiotics, we went for it. I think they like to be on the safe side regularly, but I think he also said that if the infection keeps on for a rather long time, it’s probably bacterial and not viral…but I’m sure to some extent it’s all a guessing game.

Happy to hear Jasper is feeling better!

Kelsey says:

My viewpoints on antibiotics for ear infections are influenced by three things:
1. Both my husband and brother-in-law had SEVERE ear infections as children, resulting in 23 surgeries between them and permanent partial hearing loss for my brother-in-law. When our son began dealing with chronic ear infections, we didn’t hesitate to use all tools at our disposal to avoid such extreme outcomes.

2. My husband is a pharmacist and he quite frequently sees both sides to this coin: people who need antibiotics to fight off a tough infection and who are healed after taking the medicine, as well as people who badger doctors into writing a prescription even when it’s not medically necessary. We try to be very pragmatic in our decisions as parents because we know medication is FAR from the only solution.

In the end, we use a combination of chiropractic and pediatric care for our son’s chronic ear infections. Although his hearing was impacted at first, it seems to have improved and he’s now testing in the normal range. :)

Cathy says:

So glad that Jasper is feeling better… I, like you, have been lucky enough where Maddox has not needed antibiotics yet and he’ll be 2 in 3 weeks… thankfully. I am always hesitant with medication, even with tylenol for teething. (He now tells me when his “teef” hurt. Makes the decision so much easier!) Especially because of the reflux issues when he was little.

I do believe in antibiotics and medication when necessary and the mommy “gut” I believe is best in determining when to use. I would have done the same thing as you…

I’m not big on medication but will give it to my son if necessary. He had an ear infection a few months ago and was prescribed antibiotics. He’s sensitive to antibiotics and ends up with yeast rashes but he’s so little that he can’t tell me what hurts and how much. So, I err on the side of caution and give him the meds.

samantha says:

We’ve only had to give antibiotics for an ear infection once. However he’s on low-dose antibiotics that he has to take every day for a chronic condition. I hate giving it to him, but it’s either that or the real possibility of a kidney infection (he’s already had one) or major surgery.

It’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place: taking the meds and side-effects, possible kidney damage, or being put under for surgery. We still have not made a definite decision and are going with the antibiotics for a little while to see if the condition gets better as he grows. If it doesn’t get any better within the next year we’ll opt for the surgery, because we don’t want him to have to take the meds for YEARS. Because I’m along the same lines as you- let it be because usually it gets better on it’s own. But I can’t have that stance for this unfortunately :-(

ariana says:

Thanks for the article Jenna, sounds just like what my pedi would say :)

As far as the eyes and conjunctivitis, the inside of his eyes never turned red, and I remember once before he had the same thing.. some kids just really drain congestion through their eyes!

Meaghan says:

I’m surprised your daycare let you keep coming with eyes that goopy – I for sure would have thought he had conjunctivitis.

I hate the antibiotics and we had to give them A LOT before my daughter got ear tubes when she was 13 months, but I’ve been told that ear infections are extraordinarily painful. A friend of mine had one as an adult and said she would be so much more sympathetic to her son when he got any in the future – the pain was truly terrible.

Fortunately, the tubes are still working although I expect them to fall out any day.

jbhat says:

I am so glad to hear he’s feeling better. And that you guys are getting some rest. I too would have just filled that prescription, but then my little ones don’t have J’s same history. So I think in the end, you do have to go with your gut.


Jenny McMurtrie says:

I am a firm believer of the “gut” instinct.
We have been very lucky with both boys and antibiotics.
We probably only use them once a year if that, but why make them suffer. I know how badly and GRUMPY I feel when a sinus infection occurs. You have much more will power than I do.. I would have filled that script while the ink was still wet from writing!!! Glad he’s feeling better :)

Jenna says:

How funny, I just read a blog post on this from one of my favorite pediatricians:

As a pharmacist, I completely agree with what she wrote. There really isn’t a straightforward answer and I think you have to look at individual cases. I know it’s tough when your baby is miserable!