April 12, 2012

Antibiotics and Behavior

Something happened recently that I have a hard time explaining. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't witnessed it myself, hadn't documented what was going on. But I did.

We don't use biomedical treatments with Moe. He isn't on a special diet, nor is he on any regimen of probiotics or supplements or medications. We've never had his gut checked, or had him tested for allergies. It isn't that I don't believe parents who say that these things have made a difference in their children's lives. But there isn't a lot of scientific evidence to support these types of interventions, and we don't have any reason to believe that in Moe's case, they would help.

You might remember that a few weeks ago, Moe had strep. He was very tired and actually quite well behaved when he was sick. Of course, once we understood why he was so mellow, we put him on a course of antibiotics. I knew he would be feeling better very quickly.

Within a day of starting the antibiotics, Moe's behavior got much worse. He started hitting me, or more like swatting at me pretty much whenever I interacted with him. He threw his dinner across the room. He had a permanent scowl on his face and seemed just plain pissed off.

My first thought was that Moe must be feeling just better enough to be upset about being sick. He wasn't so completely exhausted that he was finally able to express how bad he felt. But after a few days, knowing the strep should have been knocked out and that Moe should be feeling fine, his behaviors didn't subside. They saw the same smacking and swatting at school as well, especially whenever someone tried to make him work.

Moe was on the antibiotics for ten days. The behaviors continued the entire time. It was frustrating for all of us. On the tenth day (actually, the nine and a half-th day because the liquid medicine ran out. Side note: why do they put exactly 100mL in the bottle, when some amount is always lost in dispensing it?), we stopped the medication, and within 24 hours the behaviors stopped as well.

The antibiotics had to be the cause.

Okay, I suppose it could have been something else. But the antibiotics are under very heavy suspicion.

I'm not saying that Moe is never aggressive anymore. He is sometimes. And he has added his new swatting move, which is often targeted at my face and knocks my glasses off, to his repertoire of moves. But it isn't constant, and is generally clear frustration-motivated behaviors, ones we can work on and try to shape into more appropriate responses.

I don't know why the antibiotics would cause a behavioral change like that. Perhaps Moe is mildly allergic to that antibiotic and wasn't feeling well. Or maybe something else was going on. If he needs antibiotics again, I'll certainly ask for a different one and see if it makes a difference. Regardless, I'm thankful his behavior is better off them than on.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Anyone have thoughts on why this would be?


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