Tag Archives: antibacterial

Antibiotics, if you love them leave them alone

I frequently share my concerns with the way our culture handles antibiotics. I personally think that antibiotics were the most important invention of the last century. They ease pain and suffering. They save lives. But we have over used them and mis-used them, and are now facing the serious threat of antibiotic resistant super bugs like MRSA. The video below shows a little girl who developed an antibiotic resistant infection requiring surgery.

I’m writing this as I am on day five of a ten day antibiotic regimen. Already I am forgetting just how miserable I was a few days ago. Friday night my son said he had a sore throat. We went to bed and at 2am I woke to a sensation like a knife being stabbed in my throat. I knew immediately it was strep. I thought about waking my son and taking us both to the 24/7 place right then, but I had to be at work in four hours. I looked online for natural remedies for strep. I found a recipe of honey, garlic, and cayenne. That would be hard to swallow. I read testimonies by natural health bloggers who opined that by letting your body heal itself without antibiotics you would be better off in the long run. One writer claimed that she has never had strep throat since she suffered through it for two weeks as a child. I am definitely aware of the health side effects of antibiotic use such as digestions problems and yeast infections. When my alarm went off a few hours later my throat hurt so bad I had to spit into a cloth because I literally could not swallow my own saliva. I woke my husband and asked him to take Andrew to the 24/7 place as soon as everyone was up. At 10 am Steve texted me to say the test was positive for strep, Andrew already started the antibiotics, and was feeling better. Meanwhile I was in so much pain that at one point in time I went into a bathroom stall and cried. There was so much puss on my tonsils I had a horrible taste in my mouth.

The day dragged on but by 5 pm I was at the 24/7 place myself. Steve dropped my daughter and baby off. Sophie wasn’t symptomatic but I thought it wise to have her tested. Baby Joseph was pretty safe from infection, as strep throat in infants is rare. Andrew came too. He was laughing and showing off ninja kicks.

Sophie and I both tested positive for strep. The doctor started explaining the “recommended course of treatment.” I didn’t care. “Just give me the antibiotics!” The lady at the front desk explained my insurance wouldn’t cover the medicine unless I went to a pharmacy. I didn’t care. I handed her my credit card, and opened the bottle and finished the first pill before I had all the kids strapped in the car. By morning my throat hurt, but I had the will to live again. By lunch time I was completely normal.

Would I have died if I hadn’t gotten the antibiotics? No. But I was pretty miserable. I was more worried about the kids. Strep throat can lead to scarlet fever in children. The infection can spread too. A little boy at my son’s school lost both his legs to an infection which started as strep.

As much as I love those antibiotics, I will tell you there have been other times when I’ve said, “no thanks,” and stuck to those home remedies. When Joseph was a few months old I had a case of mastitis.  My midwife suggested belladonna instead of antibiotics. It worked great and now I keep it in the house to treat fevers and infections. Antibiotics pass through into breast milk and there are risks associated. At that time I wasn’t *that* miserable. Compare that to last week when I decided to assume the risk.

We also gave up on antibiotics for poor Sophie when she was a baby. Her right ear canal was smaller than her left, and was prone to ear infections. Her ear infections seemed to come one right after the other. Usually I could tell it was coming and saw her regular doctor. One hit her while we were traveling and I took her to the ER. The ER doctor did not prescribe the antibiotics, but suggested we use frequent saline drops to keep her ears flushed and drained. She hasn’t had an ear infection since.

On a completely personal level, I want global action to make sure that antibiotics are around for those times when I really truly need them. November 18th is European Antibiotic Awareness Day .  The purpose is to raise awareness about the threat to public health of antibiotic resistance and prudent antibiotic use.  Fortunately, the European Union has banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animals. Unfortunately, the US still allows this mis-use of antibiotics. According to an article in the medical journal, the Lancet, “Pigs, chickens, cows, fish and other animals consume the majority of the 100,000-200,000 tonnes (110,000-220,000 tons) of antibiotics manufactured each year, as farmers try to keep growing large and healthy animals under unsanitary conditions. The bacterial strains created in these conditions can spread to humans.” I’m a vegetarian, and we only buy eggs, milk, and meat that is certified antibiotic free, but this still affects us because the animal by products get into the system. See my graphic below to see why I care. 

homemade graphic showing how overuse of antibiotics affects us all

We have all heard how important it is to take all the pills given to us, and to dispose of them properly. This is great advice. However we are also getting some bad advice. Turn on the TV for more than a few minutes during flu season and you will see a commercial urging you to use antibacterial cleaners on your counter, or spray antibacterial aerosol on your door knobs. Most public places now a days offer you the opportunity to rub yourself down with antibacterial hand sanitizer. The dangerous ingredient found in many of these products is TRICLOSAN. This is dangerous in two ways. The first is that the FDA is currently researching and some evidence suggests that triclosan is speeding up the evolution of antibiotic resistant superbugs. The other is that children’s immune systems are not being properly developed by exposure to routine germs. For more information see my earlier post Get the Lead Out.

So the kids and I will keep taking our amoxicillin until its gone, and I remain thankful to the doctor who wrote the prescription and to the scientists who discovered it. I will say no thank you to practices that lead to drug resistant super bugs. If better information could spread like germs we would get the word out.

We don't mind the dirt, it's the cleaner that worries us.

Get the Lead Out

Before 1978, when the EPA banned the use of lead paint, we covered our walls and furniture with a substance later proven to cause mental impairment, kidney failure, seizures, coma, and even death. Before that we regularly used tin cans to store food, though we now know that the tin leeches into food and causes severe damage to the nervous system. There are things in your home right now, bought at the grocery store and advertised on TV, that are toxic to your family. Many of these chemicals are absorbed into the body through inhalation or the skin. Unlike toxins which are ingested and filtered through the liver, these chemicals go straight to the organs to wreak havoc. Below is a list of the most common toxic household products I see in my friend’s houses that have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity.

Flame retardant pajamas: In order to comply with federal requirements, manufacturers of children’s pajamas must make certain categories flame retardant (16 C.F.R. Parts 1615 & 1616). Cotton pajamas can be made flame retardant by adding PROBAN (tetrakis hydromethyl phosphonium chlorida, or THPC) into the fabric. THPC has been linked to genetic abnormalities and damage to the liver, skin and nervous system. It also promotes the growth of cancerous tumors. I look for snug fitting cotton pajamas with the label “not intended for sleep wear.”

Pretty scents: These are plug in or aerosol air fresheners, dish soap, even scented toilet paper. The fragrance contains a chemical called Phthalates. According to the Center for Disease Control, Phthalates are a known endocrine disruptor, meaning they can effect fertility or create complications. They are also known to cause migraines and trigger asthma. I struggled with headaches for the longest time. In the last several years since we have made efforts to get rid of toxins in our home, I never get headaches. According to the Environmental Working Group, “fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.” What to look for? Because fragrance is considered proprietary (trade secret) they don’t have to tell. Try using essential oils, and opening the windows as much as possible to allow fresh air in the house. Also, house plants help clean the air naturally. Here is a tip, to keep house plants from dying I tell the kids to give them ice cubes.

Carpets: Carpeting has come under scrutiny EPA lately for containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It seems to be worse at the time of installation and abates within a few days. Older carpet brings another problem- carpet cleaner. Most carpet/upholstery cleaners and spot removers contain a chemical known as “PERC” which is short for Perchloroethylene. PERC is a known neurotoxin, and a “possible carcinogen” according to the EPA. California plans to eliminate all uses of PERC by 2023 and the EPA has ordered a phase out of PERC used in dry cleaning facilities in residential areas by 2020. When having carpets installed asked to have the carpets aired out before installing. When cleaning spots look for a simple soap like castile. We have almost no carpet in our house, just a few rugs by the door to trap mud. Chemicals not withstanding it is hard to keep carpets clean and even natural pests like fleas and dust mites can abound. So bottom line with carpets- yuck.

Anything “Antibacterial:” Oh how I cringe all the time when well intentioned grown-ups squeeze hand sanitizer on my kids’ hands. No one ever thinks to ask because “anti bacterial” seems so safe right? Wrong. There is no replacement for good hand washing. Watching TV commercials will make you feel compelled to go out and buy every product available as “anti bacterial.” Most of these products are harmful for two reasons 1) They are leading to bacterial resistance and 2) They are toxic to us too. There is an appropriate use for these powerful anti bacterial agents, such as hospitals or individuals with compromised immune systems, but these are not appropriate or everyday household use. Products like hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps are leading to an increased risk for developing treatment-resistant bacteria. Certain strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to even our most powerful antibiotics, the “Super Bacteria.”

The most aggressive antibacterial agent is Triclosan. It’s found in everything from soaps to toys to clothing, and in many popular hand sanitizers. According to the FDA “there is no evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.” The American Medical Association has published a similar opinion. Other studies have now found dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. Another chemical added to antibacterial sanitizers and shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and soaps is paraben, which can prevent microbe growth in products. They are also linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation On a label it may read: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.
Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or “QUATS” are found in fabric softener liquids and sheets, and some household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.” Similar to Triclosan they are helping to create the Super Bacteria. They’re also a skin irritant, in fact a leading cause for contact dermatitis, and to blame for some respiratory disorders such as asthma.
Look for a cleaner without these chemicals or make your own. Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant. Vinegar works great too.

Powerful Cleaners: There is an alphabet soup of toxins in many common household cleaners. The bottom line is vinegar and baking soda work just as well without the side effects. Many of the additives in household cleaners are also listed as toxins in the U.S. Clean Air and Water Acts. Some of these below have been banned in other countries.
Butoxyethanol is found in window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners. Might be listed as “glycol ethers,” or not at all as current law doesn’t require labeling of it. According to the EPA high levels of glycol ethers can contribute to narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage. Chlorinated phenols found in toilet bowl cleaners are toxic to respiratory and circulatory systems. Diethylene glycol found in window cleaners depresses the nervous system. Phenols found in disinfectants are toxic to respiratory and circulatory systems. Nonylphenol ethoxylate, a common surfactant (detergent) found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners. Butyl cellosolve, common in all-purpose, window and other types of cleaners, damages bone marrow, the nervous system, kidneys and the liver

Beauty Products: Like the household products discussed above, shampoos, soaps, lotions, perfumes, anything you would use to get yourself clean and pretty scented could potentially contain toxic chemicals too. Your body absorbs these chemicals through the skin as you apply them, accelerating free radicals, causing respiratory damage, and causing other aging and health affects, as well. Be on the look out for shampoos, body washes, cleansers and bubble baths that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), which can damage mucous membranes, the respiratory tract, and the immune system. They may also contain DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine) or TEA (triethanolamine). These chemicals are carcinogens and hormone disrupters, which can prematurely age you.

I applaud my sister-in-law who now makes her own products. We are not “there” yet, but we like products such as Burts Bees and Arbonne, which guarantee an absence of these chemicals. Look for products that promise “NO SLS, SLES, DEA,” otherwise they could be a hidden ingredient.