There are two distinct memories that I have about antibiotics, and both of them happened within the same year.
The second time that I had to take antibiotics it was difficult but relatively non-invasive, at least as far as antibiotics go. I had caught pink eye. My freshman year of college, my dorm window looked out over the parking lot and had a view of the Hilton Garden Inn to the south of campus. The light would pour in through the slats of our blinds, and for the first few weeks of college, dramatically impacted my sleep. I had decided to buy a sleep mask to actually get rest so that I could get work done in class.
When the sleep mask arrived a few days later, I happily slapped it on my face and slept like a log for the first time in many nights. As the week dragged on, both of my eyes began to feel sore and began to make mucousy sludge that had sealed my eyes shut in the mornings. Whether it was my sleepless haze of the past few weeks or not, I didn’t identify the mask as the vector for my eye infection until after I had gone to student health services and received antibiotic eyedrops. they may have been impossible to use, but at least these antibiotics stayed in my eyes (and a little on my cheeks) and didn’t have any systemic effects.
The first time I took antibiotics was only four months earlier, right after my last day of high school. I had woken up perfectly fine. It was a brisk June morning in Oregon, nothing out of the ordinary, but as I walked to the bus I realized that I was much warmer than normal. the day dragged on, and I became clammier and more feverish. By the end of the day I was drawing concern from friends and acquaintances, and by the time I got home, I was running a high fever and sweating uncontrollably, and had developed such a sore throat that I could no longer swallow.
The next day I went to the clinic, where I was quickly diagnosed with a combination of bronchitis, laryngitis, and a double ear infection and sent home with prescriptions for antibiotics and an inhaler. I took the antibiotics without question. I understood the importance of maintaining the schedule of pills, and completed the full course of antibiotics without issue. At this time I was only acutely aware of the microbiome, and didn’t consider that systemic antibiotics would have a negative effect on that as well.
Various gastrointestinal distresses began popping up. I had previously attributed them to my liquid diet of the past few weeks, as juices and smoothies were the only things that I could actually eat, but as my normal diet resumed, it became clearer that that was not the case. It was at this point that I was introduced to probiotics, and as soon as I started substantially consuming probiotic foods in my diet, I began to feel relief from my various GI ails.
I now know enough about antibiotics to know that sometimes they are not necessary. I believe that in my lived experience, the times that I have had to take antibiotics were necessary, and I would not have benefitted from alternative treatment options due to the either the manner or the severity of my infections. I do believe that many times, doctors will prescribe antibiotics for issues that could be treated by other means, and that this can be more harmful to patients than the initial infection. In the future, I will discuss alternative options with healthcare professionals in the event that antibiotics are brought up, and if there are not alternative treatment options, I will be sure to take my antibiotics with yogurt.