Am I asking the right questions?

As a first-time parent to a beautiful baby girl, my life has changed considerably since Kennedy’s birth in June, and I have been asking a lot of questions.  As my wife and I continue our journey through life together, we try to do everything in our power to ensure our child is healthy and happy and has everything she needs to develop and grow.  We are always learning and asking questions, but lately I’ve wondered: Am I asking the right questions?

One recent story that’s particularly frightening is the development of antibiotic-resistant infections, where certain “super bacteria” develop defenses rendering the antibiotics designed to treat them useless.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said these resistant bacteria threaten to return society to a time when people died from ordinary infections.
Just a few weeks ago we made our first unplanned visit to the doctor’s office resulting in a diagnosis of an ear infection and a prescription to be filled.  After the trip to the doctor we were ready to get our little girl home and nurse her back to health.  After I opened up the prescribed antibiotics, the smell of amoxicillin instantly reminded me of the medicine that aided me when I was sick as a child.  As a kid, I didn’t ask what the medicine was or how it worked; I just wanted to get better.  As a new parent, I haven’t asked about potential risks of the prescriptions; I just wanted my baby to be better.  I want a clean bill of health for my little girl, not nightmares about super bacteria without an effective prevention or cure.

After 10 days of antibiotics, Kennedy seemed back to her normal three-month old self.  "Unfortunately, just days after the antibiotic cycle ended, her cough came back, and this new Dad instantly knew something was wrong." The doctor noticed the ear infection was still present and looked worse.  Without conversation, we were prescribed a “heavy hitter” to help knock out the infection once and for all.  Once again, I just wanted my daughter to be better, all other questions and concerns took a backseat.

After a handful of doses of the new “heavy hitter,” Kennedy is back chatting up a storm, practicing her smiles, and enjoying the beautiful weather with walks outdoors.  Order has been restored to our home now that she feels better, even though she will still be taking the potent antibiotic into next week and her mom and I still have concerns.  Our baby is not even four months old, yet has been prescribed two different antibiotics for three weeks of her short life.  What does that mean for her going forward?  Were the proper medications prescribed?  Should I have asked different questions? Why didn’t they test her blood first, to see whether the problem was indeed bacterial, or if it was viral?  Articles I’m reading say antibiotics are ineffective against viruses.  Did we just become a part of the problem?

Federal health officials are deeply concerned about unnecessary and inappropriate antibiotic use by several groups.  There is serious concern that doctors are overusing antibiotics and oftentimes using them inappropriately and ineffectively.  But here in Iowa, where agriculture is ‘king’, there’s finger pointing towards livestock farmers and the antibiotics they use.  But the farmers I work with are only using them as needed to treat sick animals.

It makes me wonder how many new parents or patients are considering their role in this whole situation.

I will not forget the fears and concerns that came with my baby being sick for the first time.  I will have more fears and concerns the next time she gets a cough or starts pulling on her ear.  I have learned quite a bit in the first few months as a parent, but I am left with more questions for doctors and producers regarding antibiotics and my child’s health and safety.

We all need to do our part and keep asking questions about our role in this growing problem of antibiotic resistance.  I know I will.

Written by Andrew Wheeler.

Andrew is public relations coordinator for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.