Antibiotics & Probiotics – What To Do?


Scratchy throat, white patches, red ears and tugging… all signs your child has an infection. This is not at all what you want in any case! But this is especially not what you want when it’s between flares for your child’s disorder.

One of the biggest challenges with our immune system is keeping it in check. For kids with autoimmune disorders, it’s a careful balance of health without flaring disease.

Treatments & Effects for Their Disorders
Many autoimmune disorders are treated with steroids or other immunosuppressants. These drugs lower the immune response. This is what we want for treating autoimmunity.  Autoimmunity is a hyper immune system misidentifying healthy body cells as foreign invaders and attacking them. Immunosuppressants make this reaction slow or stop.

Unfortunately, this lowered response is not only directed at autoimmune cells but at all cells. That means the whole system is affected. It leaves our kids vulnerable to illness.

Using Antibiotics
Some illnesses require antibiotics, some do not. Some illnesses, even though bacterial, may clear on their own if left to heal. Our society usually treats all bacterial infections with antibiotics.

There are certain infections like strep and staph that require antibiotic treatment. If left untreated they won’t heal and can lead to death. It’s important to seek medical attention if you or your child develops an infection. The doctor needs to determine proper treatment for your infection.

One illness not treated with antibiotics is a virus. This will heal on its own. If it doesn’t heal it requires other types of treatment. Antibiotics will not work for viral infections.

Some childhood infections you may or may not choose to treat with medication (after you have received direction and proper advice from a physician). For us, we have chosen to avoid antibiotic use in any case that is not life threatening for our child. Why and what for?

What happens when you use an antibiotic?

Some antibiotics are targeted for certain bacteria. However, the targeted bacteria aren’t the only bacteria affected. Antibiotics also kill beneficial bacteria in the gut. As the meds kill your germs, they kill your protective gut bacteria.

For some people, they will grow those back. There are no side effects. But for other people, especially kids and older adults, their immune systems don’t work quite right. They can’t grow the helpful bacteria back. The drug kills so many there is no chance of survival. This means harmful bacteria take over. Your child can develop a c.diff infection. This is a harmful type of bacteria that overtakes the system. It can potentially lead to death if not treated.

Whenever you or your child take an antibiotic you should be taking a probiotic (in a rotation not at the same time of day as your antibiotic). Now here is where it gets tricky.

With autoimmunity, anything that boosts the immune system can flare the disorder. However, a c.diff infection caused by antibiotics can kill your child. It’s a tough balance. If your child develops c.diff the usual treatment starts with a round of antibiotics (believe it or not!). But the antibiotics for c.diff are strong in flavor and cannot be masked with a flavoring agent. Our child rejected them completely after a few days of forcing it down. Not only that but it didn’t completely treat his infection. The treatment kills the bad bacteria but doesn’t restore the positive bacteria needed for balance. That is why we turned to probiotics.

Probiotics are positive bacteria your gut needs to restore or maintain a healthy balance. Keeping this balance is essential to digestion and food breakdown. It’s important for gut health to take a probiotic. We have used the Florajen brand with great success. It needs to be refrigerated and packs a lot of live helpful bacteria in every pill. For a very little one, the Florajen4Kids works awesome. It comes in a capsule that is easily opened and added to water. It is flavorless and odorless. Kids do not know it’s in the water. Even those very sensitive kids (mine is one of those and he never knew).

We used high doses of probiotics to return his gut to normal. This was a risk with his autoimmunity, but one that was necessary. We have had to do it again one other time, as we treated an ear infection with an antibiotic. After two times, we have chosen not to treat unless it’s a life-threatening illness.

Warnings with Probiotics
Probiotics are rarely harmful in a healthy person. Maintenance use is awesome for your immunity and system. HOWEVER, someone with an autoimmune disease may experience a flare if they take too much. It’s important to know how much is too much and how much is OK. There are some conditions, like c.diff where the maximum dose is the best option for your child – even with autoimmunity. However, during healthier times it’s best to keep the immune system at bay. We have seen a direct correlation with increased probiotic use and aggravated PFAPA symptoms/episodes. We had no choice either time.

nature-body-earTreating Ear Infections Naturally
Both times we tried to treat ear infections in Parker with antibiotics, he developed c. diff. We learned the first time what to look for, and so the second time at the first sign of c.diff we discontinued meds. We had already begun probiotics with the meds but increased the dosage to get it under control quickly. It worked, but he still had painful ears that were bothering him.

Ear infections can be left alone and most children will heal them naturally in 14 days according to recent research. However, if your child is in pain and uncomfortable there are things you can do to help.

What we like
We used warmed Neem Oil and Garlic Mullein Oil. He liked the warmth in his ear, and he said it helped decrease and eliminate the pain. We did these twice a day (2 drops of each) for a week. After 3 days he was no longer complaining of his ears. We continued for a few more days and we were done. The infection did not re-appear and was healed. Of course, this could be natural, or from the oil. However, he found the oil soothing and claimed it relieved the pressure and pain.

Using medications with autoimmune disorders can be tricky. Learning what works for your child is important. Choosing treatments that fit your family and child are essential. As always, you should consult your physician when you believe your child has an infection. They will provide you with a diagnosis and treatment options. What I share in this article is my personal experience. Be safe.

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