No Antibiotics? But…

When I was a kid, I had the worst time with colds. I got sick as much as any other kid- which was a lot- and either me or my brother would get it first, then give it to the other. In most of the cases, my brother always got better after a while, meanwhile, I would just get worse and the cold would settle in my chest. I remember many a night coughing and wheezing with a humidifier blowing in the corner- it was a thing that happened every single winter, if not multiple times throughout the course of the school year.

Once I was so sick and my lungs so filled with phlegm that I awoke in the middle of the night, in a panic, thinking I couldn’t breathe at all. I managed to cry out though, and my Mom came and consoled me on the living room couch I was on, and that is the only thing that prevented me from hyperventilating and passing out entirely- her consoling me and telling me in that way that mother’s in the 1970’s did, before asthma inhalers were invented (or at least widely circulated).

The only way that I got out of wheezing and coughing was to go on antibiotics, time after time my brother got the same cold and got better, and I would have to see the doctor and be prescribed antibiotics. It was such a regular occurrence and bad enough, that I almost even stayed at the hospital a couple times- I remember the doctor asking if I wanted to, it was bad! Couldn’t breathe!

Finally when I was in my early 20’s I stopped getting bronchitis every time I got a bad cold, but this was after years and years and a couple really, really bad bronchitis episodes at the end that lasted months, one in which I had a broken rib for, so I really remember the excruciating torture of each cough. And finally, I just grew out of it. Or so I thought.

Now, 20 years later, I have bronchitis- that same old rasp in the left lung specifically it feels, and will not go away. My mother got the same cold, she’s fine now, but both me and my father are wheezing. I went to the doctor, but they refused to give me any antibiotics, saying that most cases of bronchitis are viral and can’t be treated by such. This was news to me. I asked for the scientific literature to back up what they were saying, because not using antibiotics directly contradicted my own observations and life experience. But they just gave me a patient info sheet on the subject.

I’ve tried to look into the scientific literature myself to see what evidence they have to support their new course of treatment- which is give you a inhaler and send you on your way without addressing any underlying issues, and it seems to be based upon this paper:

Principles of appropriate antibiotic use for treatment of uncomplicated acute bronchitis: background. Gonzales R1, Bartlett JG, Besser RE, Cooper RJ, Hickner JM, Hoffman JR, Sande MA; American Academy of Family Physicians; American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine; Centers for Disease Control; Infectious Diseases Society of America. Ann Intern Med. 2001 Mar 20;134(6):521-9.

This paper states clearly on page one that “Microbiological studies of uncomplicated acute bronchitis identify a pathogen in the minority of cases, ranging from 16% to 40%” which means that in the majority of cases- 60 to 84%, they are actually unable to locate what exactly the underlying cause is to acute bronchitis.

To me it always has seemed like a secondary infection, particularly since my brother got the same bacteria and/or viruses that I did, but I was the one who ended up not being able to breathe while he got better. I believe that this is what antibiotics was treating, the secondary infection which is also why my spit would turn different colors and taste funny even. Because I had an INFECTION.

But let’s go back to the science and the literature and why they will no longer treat my lung infections with antibiotics.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Acute Bronchitis, ROSS H. ALBERT, MD, PhD, Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Connecticut Am Fam Physician. 2010 Dec 1;82(11):1345-1350.

In the very first table in this paper it states that the evidence rating for “Antibiotics should not be used routinely for the treatment of acute bronchitis” is a B. It states in the table “B = inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence” which says that there really isn’t a whole lot of evidence to back up antibiotics not being used.  This paper also states, “The causative pathogen for bronchitis is rarely identified. In clinical studies, identification of the causative pathogen occurs in less than 30 percent of cases.” Which again means that in over 70% of the cases, they don’t actually know what caused it. Just saying it is a virus and not prescribing antibiotics to a person who will continue to be incapacitated by illness is really not adequate when the science says you don’t actually know what you are dealing with/talking about.

Ahhhhh, heeeeehhhhhhhemmmmmm!!! Excuse me!!!!

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When you do things not based upon science- like actual observations and data- but based upon your prejudices then people don’t really get the help they might need, but it certainly is like being in the middle ages without any medical treatment at all. Except we have inhalers now, so if I start hyperventilating because I think I can’t breathe, at least I have that to fall back on. Without that many a doctor might find they have lawsuits on their hands too, but I guess if you provide temporary relief without even dealing with or knowing what the cause is- that is enough “science” for medicine these days. Sad. No evidence to back them up whatsoever.

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