5 Questions to Ask Before Taking Antibiotics

Antibiotics are important medical tools that need to be used with care. By asking 5 questions before taking antibiotics, you can better decide if a prescription is right for your situation.

5 Questions to Ask Before Taking Antibiotics

Sometimes I think there is a misconception about natural health professionals and enthusiasts regarding our feelings toward antibiotics. We’re all too stubborn and paranoid about conventional medicine to actually go to a doctor and get a prescription when we’re sick, right?

Um, no. Not true!

I admit that I avoid antibiotics in our home, but I do so with good reason. Antibiotic use disrupts gut health and harms all of the very beneficial microbes that our bodies require for health and wellness. Many bacterial strains are also becoming resistant to antibiotics, and this is an extremely serious situation that has global attention.

But even though we avoid antibiotics in our home when possible, I am quick to admit that antibiotics are important tools to have in the proverbial medical toolbox and are sometimes necessary. We just need to think through our particular situation to decide if these drugs are the right tool to use at the time.

To make that decision, I like to consider five questions before taking antibiotics. These are great questions to discuss with a doctor or other health care professional when you or a family member is sick, too. That expert advice is often needed to make the best decision.

The 5 Questions to Ask Before Taking Antibiotics

Am I Certain There is a Bacterial Infection?

Though this might seem like a no-brainer, it’s an essential question to ask. Why? Because antibiotics will not help with a viral infection.

It’s not terribly uncommon for a patient to insist that he/she (or his/her child) needs antibiotics for a sickness, even though a culture hasn’t been done to verify that the ailment is caused by a bacterial infection. When doctors prescribe the antibiotics with a culture, the patient’s beneficial bacteria may be killed off for no legitimate purpose and antibiotic overuse continues.

There are much better ways to deal with viral infections than taking antibiotics. Elderberry syrup and echinacea tincture are excellent options, as well as antiviral tea blends and other simple home remedies.

Open Rx bottles

What Happens if I Let the Infection Run its Course?

In some cases, like ear infections, the body is often able to deal with a bacterial infection on its own if given time. Antibiotics aren’t necessary because the body’s own defense mechanisms and immune response will overcome the infection without any other intervention.

Asking your doctor if the infection may clear on its own can help you better decide if antibiotics are a good choice for the sickness you’re dealing with. It may be that the body will struggle to overcome the sickness, or perhaps even worsen, without the additional help from antibiotics. But if the antibiotics can be skipped without causing harm or leading to complications, forgoing the prescription may be the better choice.

Are Herbal Antibiotics a Reasonable Option?

If there is a bacterial infection that isn’t likely to just resolve on its own, the next question to consider is whether or not herbal antibiotics are a reasonable option to try first. There are a few commonly recognized botanicals that are powerful antibiotics, but they are less likely to disrupt gut flora and do not lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Echinacea, goldenseal or Oregon grape root, and garlic are real herbal antibiotic powerhouses. In fact, garlic is my secret weapon anytime there is a sickness in our house, and its antibiotic potency is well-established. Plus, it’s really yummy on toast (with eggs, and onions, and mushrooms, and avocado, and I digress…)!

After discussing this option with your doctor, you might decide to start with herbal antibiotics for a time, monitoring disease progression closely so that you can decide if further treatment with a prescription is needed.

Rx botttles

Is My Body Otherwise Healthy Enough to Fight the Infection?

While considering the previous two questions, it’s also important to keep in mind overall health. A body that is well-nourished, rested, and otherwise healthy may be able to fight off an infection on its own or with herbal treatments easily, whereas an individual who doesn’t eat well, rest enough, or has an underlying medical condition may struggle.

This is another reason why discussing options with your doctor, and perhaps even a qualified herbalist, is important. Professionals are sometimes able to see the overall picture better than we can when we’re dealing with sickness.

This also shows why a consistent healthy lifestyle is important: it doesn’t guarantee that we won’t get sick, but it does make our bodies stronger for sickness when it happens.

What Are the Possible Complications of This Infection?

Finally, it’s important to understand what complications can arise from the bacterial infection if it isn’t treated with antibiotics. If serious complications can develop in a short period of time without prompt treatment, then antibiotics might be a wise choice. But if the infection will likely remain manageable without them, then simple home remedies may be fitting.

The 5 Questions in Our Home

I’ve used these five questions to determine if I or someone in my family needed antibiotics in the past, and I’ve come to different answers depending on the situations.

When I’ve come down with mastitis while breastfeeding, I have always opted to skip antibiotics. I know I have a bacterial infection that can abscess if left untreated, but I also know that lots of nursing, sleeping, and garlic is enough for my otherwise healthy body to overcome the infection. I’m also always careful to monitor the infection while I treat at home so that if it doesn’t improve, I can contact my doctor or midwife for a prescription.

My husband recently came down the strep throat, and we felt that antibiotics were a wise choice for him. He has a demanding schedule that wears his body down, and I knew his body would need help overcoming the infection. Strep also carries with it the possibility of developing into scarlet fever without treatment. He was feeling so awful that it wasn’t reasonable to give his exhausted body time to fight if off with the help of herbal antibiotics. He needed immediate treatment, and that came from a prescription.

Antibiotics are valuable medical treatments that we are blessed to have, but they need to be used wisely and with care. 

5 Questions before taking antibiotics

How do you decide when to use antibiotics in your home?

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    1. I have found that natural antibiotics work for us every time except for life threatening situations (like when my daughter had pneumonia). I’m so thankful I can give my girls a healthier start in life because of natural medicine. I have suffered greatly from over antibiotic use (due to being uneducated on the subject), and I thank God for the knowledge I have learned!

    2. Last year I went through a few round of urinary tract infections. I tried all the natural remedies I thought reasonable, but couldn’t kick them. That first antibiotic I got, didn’t kick it either and turned my cast iron stomach inside-out, so we tried another that did work. I did what I could to prevent them from coming back. Eventually, they stopped. And I am grateful! I don’t know what brought them on or why they quit.

      I don’t go to antibiotics first. Certainly not for every cold! My doctor and our pediatrician understands and agrees with me. They will tell me when they think it is best. For ear infections, it depends on the person and their track record. Basically, if their ear hurts, we do it, because their ears don’t hurt unless it’s bad! I don’t want them to go through burst eardrums like I have!

      Good questions!

      1. Thanks, Mama2eight! Sounds like you were wise to get on the antibiotic for the stubborn UTI. Kidney infections can be serious, and that’s definitely a real concern with UTIs that won’t go away.

      2. Have you ever tried D-Mannose Mama2Eight? 90% of UTI’s are caused by E-Coli, and D-Mannose scrapes the bacteria off the bladder. Works wonders for us for even the worst infections! Just thought I’d share.

    3. Thank you for this post. It is very timely, as on Friday, I was prescribed TWO antibiotics for a few tiny animal bites on my fingers, which are nearly healed. (Long story for why I sought medical attn, but it wasn’t to get antibiotics). I felt that I could already see that there was NO infection and the Dr. was only doing a routine prescription. Sometimes when a Dr. prescribes something, I think we feel as if we have no choice but to obey. But if we do ask ourselves the questions you presented and use common sense, I believe we can have wisdom re: antibiotic use.

      1. So true about feeling like we have to obey when a doctor gives a prescription! It can be hard to remember that we’re in charge of our own health and that it’s okay to ask questions about what’s being prescribed.