Antibiotic Use Prevention
Updated: Mar 5
By Jenny Anderson, RN, BSN, MBA
You Have Powerful Tools!
My professional job, as a Pediatric RN, is to talk to parents about the health of their kids. It can be really rewarding, and the conversations I love the most are the ones during which parents "get it", that there is so much they can do for their child at home to help them overcome their viral illnesses.
I am not able to promote the use any holistic measures when I am at work, of course, especially when it comes to any kind of supplement use. That's OK, because what I CAN tell them is still very useful, and very much appropriate in my work setting.
I encourage parents, according to our nursing protocols, to use steam inhalation, honey, nasal saline drops, and warm fluids. When I explain to them the WHY'S behind these methods, it suddenly makes more sense to them, and THAT is what I love the most.
Preventing Antibiotic Use, as Much as Possible
Many parents bring up the use of antibiotics, and lately, I'm seeing the conversation shift a little bit.
8 years ago, when I did this same work, parents would demand antibiotics in order to make their kids feel better, and I had to work hard to explain how antibiotics do not treat viruses. That we needed to give their kids a chance to fight the virus off with their immune system, first. Yes, the viruses can cause secondary infections, like ear infections, sinus infections, and even pneumonia, but it is only when those secondary infections occur, will the antibiotic be useful.
I still have those discussions now, but, more and more, parents tell me that they feel their children have had too many antibiotics, and they hope to prevent needing them as much.
If you have read any of my gut health series, you may be familiar with the effect antibiotics have on gut health, and about the concern for antibiotic resistance. It is certainly a viscous cycle, as we know now that much of our immunity does lie in our guts, due to the "friendly bacteria" that is found in a healthy gut.
Here's how that vicious cycle happens:
1. The friendly gut bacteria works synergistically with our immune system, so it only make sense that if we repeatedly kill that friendly bacteria off with antibiotics, the immune system will be weakened.
2. If the immune system continues to be weakened, without being allowed to rebuild itself, certainly we will be more and more prone to secondary infections, and needing the antibiotics yet again.
But, did you catch that part about the immune system being allowed to rebuild? YES, it can rebuild! If we stop assaulting it with unnecessary antibiotics, and support our bodies with immune building components, our immune system will become strong again!
I've seen this time and time again, including in myself and in my own kids.
This subject is far more robust that what I have the time and space in this email to provide to you. But you can read this post on my blog for insight.
Managing Respiratory Viruses
In the meantime, here are the basics, especially when dealing with respiratory infections. Again, our goal is to PREVENT the need for antibiotics. I am not suggesting you go against a doctor's recommendation to take antibiotics once you do have a secondary, or bacterial, infection (again, this includes ear infection, sinus infection, sometimes bronchitis, and pneumonia, to name a few that can result from respiratory viruses).
Side note: Over the counter cough medications suppress coughs. But the cough is the body's way of protecting the lungs! This is why, even at my pediatric clinic, we strongly discourage the use of cough medications! Read on to find out what you can try instead.
Thin Out Mucous
Why? If we thin out the mucous, it will drain better, preventing it from becoming stagnant in the sinuses, Eustachian tubes (draining from the ears), bronchial tubes and lungs.
You do this in multiple ways:
Drink plenty of fluids, including warm fluids.
Saline spray in the nose (or saline drops in babies).
Steam inhalation (from a hot shower, or, boiling water, pouring in a bowl, and breathing the steam from the water with a towel over your nose, mouth, and the bowl. Always use caution to avoid excessively hot water/prevent burns). Do this at least 2 x per day, once after waking, and once before bed.
Raw Honey. My favorite is raw Manuka honey, from New Zealand. Honey actually does reduce mucous, and raw honey has been shown to have anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects. Pediatricians recommend against honey in babies less than 12 months old. Give as needed throughout the day.
Lemon Essential Oil is wonderful at thinning out mucous, and has amazing cleansing properties. You can take a drop mixed with water, or diffuse this oil.
Open the Airways
As you may already guess, opening the airways will promote easier breathing, as well as allow mucous to drain better, as well as be cleared from the airways. This will help protect the bronchial tubes and lungs.
Steam inhalation, as already listed in the previous section, absolutely helps to open the airways. But warm-hot steam is far better at opening the airways than humidifiers.
Breathe Essential Oil. There are specific oils in Breathe that encourage the airways to open.* Apply diluted Breathe to the chest, and/or diffuse at the bedside. You can also put a drop in the palm of your hand and cup it to your mouth during a steamy shower.
Note: Breathe Essential Oil Blend contains Lemon Essential Oil! YES-helping the mucous to thin out and drain better.
Encourage Appropriate Immune Response
Breathe Essential oil, again! There are multiple oils in Breathe, particularly Eucalyptus, that encourage a healthy immune response in the respiratory tract.* Remember, a healthy immune response is what we want, in order to help the body rid itself of a virus, and avoid the development of a secondary (bacterial) infection.
Frankincense, Copaiba, On Guard, Melaleuca, Oregano Essential Oils. These are all essential oils that also encourage a healthy immune response. All of these can be diffused, diluted and applied to the bottoms of the feet, or even taken internally. The key is consistency. You can't just use these oils once and expect them to do their job (just like you can't take your antibiotic once-your doctor always prescribes consistent use for around 10 days!). Apply them externally 4 or so times per day, or take your internal oils twice per day. Diffuse your oils nightly.
Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin A. There is SO much research emerging about these vitamins and their ability to support the immune system. I would recommend searching information from Dr. Ben Lynch. There are so many others out there that provide excellent information on these vitamins and on the appropriate use of them, but I do recommend Dr. Lynch because he lays it out so simply.
Is it Easy?
These tools are powerful! And I truly feel that it is when they are used together, that I see the best successes.
I don't offer any guarantees to you, because I simply cannot do that (are there ever any guarantees in life?). But I can tell you that in our family, since we started utilizing these tools 5 years ago, using them consistently and appropriately, none of the 4 of us have needed an antibiotic prescription.
And, is it easy? Well, honestly, I feel it is certainly a bit more work up front, but it's completely manageable. As with anything, putting in some extra work up front is often well worth the outcome. And, using your tools consistently certainly can save time and money on the back end.
There is a learning curve, but I say, start small and add more when you're ready.
If you want to learn more about the essential oils mentioned, feel free to click here.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not designed to treat, prevent or cure disease.
FDA Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or veterinarian. Any information contained on this blog is meant to be used for entertainment purposes only; it is not meant to replace advice from your health care provider. None of the information on this blog has been evaluated by the FDA. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. I will no respond to emails asking for specific medical advice or recommendations for for humans or animals. Do your own research, talk to your health care provider, and proceed with caution.