When Friends Offer ‘Alternative Treatments’ for Your Child’s Health Issues


When I posted about my son’s double ear infections on Facebook, I think I was looking for a few words of encouragement from a select audience who should have already known these things about my son:

  • He was born with bilateral hearing loss and has abnormally small ear canals;
  • He wears a hearing aid in his left ear; his right ear is currently recovering from surgery (to be aided or not, remains in question);
  • He has had three ear surgeries in his 6 years of life;
  • He had a cholestetoma removed from his right ear during a five-hour surgery last summer;
  • Because of the cholestetoma, ear infections are no small matter for my son;
  • He is currently under the care of an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor); and,
  • He has sensory integration issues, with oral defensiveness; taking medication causes my son great anxiety.

I believe those same Facebook friends should have also known these key facts about me:

  • I’ve spent the bulk of my time over the past six years caring for my son;
  • I probably know a good deal more about ear health, structure and anatomy than most people;
  • I’ve been feeding my family organic food for 16 years;
  • I am a certified yoga teacher and use alternative medicine whenever possible; and,
  • Because of concerns over returning cholesteatoma and further erosion of his middle ear bones, we have to play it “safe” and use antibiotics.

I was advised on Facebook to try sprinkling garlic on my son’s food and to start buying organic food because it was said to clear up ear infections in the advice-giver’s son.

This comment (well-meaning as it was) made me angry, and then it made me cry.

I realize I’m sensitive right now. This week, my son couldn’t hear out of his right ear and couldn’t wear his left hearing aid, leaving him without access to sound. He couldn’t go to school, and I’ve had to try hard to get him to take an antibiotic. This week, I also drove my fevering son four hours round-trip during 10-below temperatures to see his surgeon, who basically told me there is no good way to know whether cholesteatoma has returned (shy of lifting up his ear in the operating room again for a “second look” or perhaps an MRI in six months). So right now, as much as I’d like an “easy” fix, I can only “wait and see.”

I have no control, and no amount of garlic will change that fact.

Facebook friend, I realize that you were only trying to help with your suggestion of garlic. However, it’s probably best to stick to the basic “tea and sympathy.” Instead, you might simply try offering some empathy. I really take comfort in those Facebook friends who provide comments like these:

  • So sorry you’re dealing with this again.
  • Hugs and prayers.
  • You guys are so brave!
  • Hoping he feels better soon.
  • You’re an awesome mom, Heidi!
  • Stay strong!
  • Praying you both get a good night’s sleep.

And after seeing comments like the above, I know I’m not alone. Maybe all I really need during those times of worry and heightened stress over my son’s fragile health is to know my friends are standing with me.

boy wearing baseball cap jumping near a rock

Follow this journey on Mother Imperfect.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Related to Not Yet Categorized

When My Professor Asked If People With Disabilities Would Rather Be Able-Bodied

As a senior in college graduating this May, I have had the opportunity to take incredible classes on varying topics throughout my four years of school. In one of my courses this semester, I recently participated in an interesting class discussion on a topic I rarely ever discuss in a classroom setting: disability. In the course of our daily [...]

18 Things People With Chronic Illness Wish Their Doctors Would Say

The relationship between a patient and his or her doctor can have a profound impact on the patient’s journey with chronic illness. Doctors’ words matter: an encouraging comment can go a long way towards making a patient feel supported and hopeful — and an insensitive remark can do just the opposite. We asked our Mighty [...]

When You Pressure Yourself to Be a ‘Success Story’ of Your Illness

On mornings like this, I find myself floundering. For the second time with this illness, I find myself detached from the outside world. After months of striving to balance an ever-decreasing workload with an ever-increasing symptom load, I stepped back to make my health my number-one priority, something my body no longer deemed a choice. On [...]

22 Respectful Ways to Respond When Someone Uses the R-Word

How many of us have been in a conversation with someone — a friend or coworker, perhaps, or a new acquaintance — and he or she casually uses the R-word in a derogatory way? It can be a difficult situation to navigate, especially with someone you’re not totally comfortable with. What’s the best way to [...]