What makes my doctor so great?
- She rarely prescribes meds.
- She gives me my 15 mins and really listens to my concerns.
- She does a thorough examination plus asks all of the appropriate questions before making any sort of diagnosis or recommendations.
To put it simply, she does her job thoroughly and responsibly. She understands that medication has side effects and should only be given when necessary. She is not in a rush to cram as many patients as possible into an 8-hour work day.
Isn’t That What All Doctors Do?
My experience with other doctors at walk-in clinics has left me quite unimpressed. I, myself, have not had to visit a doctor for an infectious illness in quite a few years (I have fortunately not had anything severe enough to warrant any treatment beyond rest and fluids). I have, however, taken my daughter to the doctor plenty of times because with kids it’s often hard to tell how severe the infection is and it’s better to be safe than sorry. I would prefer to only take her to our family physician but sometimes illness strikes on weekends and there’s no other option.
My daughter has been prescribed antibiotics several times over the course of her life by different doctors at different walk-in clinics when she did not need them. Each time, the doctor insisted that I start her on a course of antibiotics right away before getting test results back (usually a throat swab to test for strep throat) because they were confident that she had whatever infection they suspected. I opted to wait for the results every time except the first time.
The first time she was prescribed antibiotics was when she was about a year and a half old. Our family physician was not available that day so I took her to a walk-in clinic where the doctor on-duty prescribed her antibiotics. I didn’t think twice about it and filled the prescription, because I trusted that the doctor knew what he was doing. I gave her one dose before bed and she ended up puking it up shortly after. She continued to vomit several times that night so we took her to the emergency room in the middle of the night. The doctor ordered some blood work and took a chest x-day (a traumatic experience for both her and me since it took 3 people to hold her down for the procedure) and found nothing indicative of anything other than a common viral cold. We were told not to bother with the antibiotics we already had since her infection was viral and the doctor sent us home after a long night in the ER.
Although that experience was awful I learned a valuable lesson: antibiotics are grossly over-prescribed.
Since then I have taken my daughter to a walk-in clinic several times when she has gotten sick and her family physician was unavailable; sometimes I was told it was a viral infection and that it would simply run its course without the need for meds but I can recall at least 3-4 incidents in which the doctor handed me a prescription for antibiotics and told me it was strep throat before getting any test results back. Each time, they took a throat swab and each time I opted to wait for the results since my daughter was staying hydrated and didn’t have a very high fever or any other truly alarming symptoms.
And guess what? Her test results were negative EVERY time.
She is now 6 years old and has never taken antibiotics aside from that one dose at 18 months that she subsequently puked out, but she has been wrongfully prescribed antibiotics at least 4-5 times.
Needless to say, I have become quite weary of walk-in clinics and prefer to wait til my regular family doctor is available if possible.
This Is NOT An Anti-Medicine Or Anti-Doctor Post
Now I want to make one thing perfectly clear – had my daughter actually needed those antibiotics, I would not have hesitated to give them to her. Antibiotics are a life-saving invention of modern medicine and should absolutely be taken when necessary.
The problem is that they are commonly prescribed for viral conditions that cannot be treated with antibiotics because antibiotics only kill bacteria, not viruses. This study found that almost half of low-risk seniors with viral respiratory infections were prescribed antibiotics. They also found that older doctors were more likely to prescribe antibiotics compared to younger, or “early-career” physicians which is consistent with my personal experience.
Despite efforts at cautioning against antibiotic misuse that leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria (a BIG PROBLEM!), they are still over overprescribed worldwide. Sadly, because countless people are misusing antibiotics and contributing to the problem of creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, there are a growing number of people becoming infected with and succumbing to these mutated bacteria.
As a result, the World Health Organization cautions that “we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”
What Can You Do To Help?
In the past (before having a kid with food intolerances and learning about the negative impacts that antibiotics have on gut health), I admit I loved doctors who readily prescribed antibiotics. I considered them the “good doctors” and griped about the ones who would send me home empty-handed. Sadly I was uninformed and misguided just like a lot of people still are. Now I know that the “good doctors” are the ones who prescribe meds as a last resort and exhaust all other possibilities first.
If you feel like your doctor hands out antibiotic prescriptions like candy then you should seriously consider finding a doctor who takes the time to assess whether what you have is actually a bacterial infection vs a viral one.
However, we cannot put all of the blame on doctors. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that doctors were more likely to prescribe antibiotics even when they didn’t believe they were necessary if the patients’ expectations of receiving antibiotics were high.
So please stop pestering your doctor for antibiotics every time you have a sniffle.
Doctors are only human and cave to pressure just like the rest of us. You are not doing yourself any favours by asking for antibiotics when your doctor already told you that it’s viral. To reiterate, antibiotics CANNOT kill viruses, only bacteria! Most infections that cause the common cold are viral and by taking antibiotics when you don’t need them you are only causing harm. You are not only contributing to the antibiotic resistance crisis but you are also killing off all of the beneficial bacteria in your gut for no reason. This can negatively impact your gut health which impacts your overall health.
Your best bet is to try to prevent illnesses in the first place by washing your hands frequently and eating a healthy diet to keep your immune system strong. Proper nutrition will not only decrease the frequency of illnesses but also help you recover more quickly if you do get sick.
I want to end with a word of caution. Please do not misconstrue this post as advice to ignore the advice of your or your child’s doctor. This post is simply meant to inspire you to ask more questions when you visit the doctor and to ask for tests to confirm a diagnosis if possible before resorting to meds. As I stated above, antibiotics are life-saving in many cases and if they are needed you should not try to heal yourself or your child with alternative remedies in lieu of medication. While they do negatively impact the gut microbiome their benefits outweigh the risks when they are warranted, and the microbiome can always be replenished afterwards through diet to undo any damage they caused. The right nutrition and natural remedies can definitely boost your immune system and either prevent illnesses from occurring in the first place or help you recover from them more quickly, but once a severe infection has taken hold it is best to seek the advice of a medical professional.