When my doctor said, “I’d like to prescribe you antibiotics for this skin infection.” I said, “Well…I’m sort of anti-antibiotics, so let’s talk about that.”
I walked out of the doctor’s office with a bottle of amoxicillin (just in case) and a doctor-approved plan of attack with natural, at-home treatments for cellulitis.
How do You Get an Infection in your Skin?
It started as a little dry spot on my side about the size of a quarter. At first, I thought it was just a recurrence of a candida rash I’d had a few years prior.
One little spot at the base of my neck had turned into a full-body, nasty, itchy red rash, and I worked hard to fight the candida. I was finally successful, except for the original small spot.
I’d never quite gotten rid of that until we did Gut Thrive in 5, after which I had a few more traveling, recurring rashes, and then they disappeared. I figured this new rash was just my body saying I had eaten too much sugar over the holidays or that winter in Michigan was rough on my Vitamin D levels.
I know my skin is saying that something is wrong on the inside when I get a rash, but I thought it wasn’t a big deal, and that likely, healing would come through cutting junk during Lent and getting the sunshine back as spring approached.
I put some oils on the spot and I didn’t really give it much thought. Until it got weird.
My slightly itchy skin began to get crusty and scaly. I know, gross right!?
One Wednesday in January, I realized that it was beginning to hurt like a bruise or sore muscle and was tender to the touch. Ominous!
The rash started weeping a bit, and I tried some Redmond clay on it to dry it out, but the clay couldn’t even dry. Then I realized I could feel some small-ish lumps under my skin up near my armpit.
Uh oh…time to go to the doctor.
The doctor said I appeared to have some psoriasis (or maybe it was candida or eczema), and then because of the cracking in my skin, some bacteria had gotten in and I was diagnosed with cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection.
I’d never even heard of cellulitis before!
I really hate taking antibiotics. On the way home from the doctor I was (coincidentally??) listening to a summit speaker who said that one round of antibiotics can change your gut forever!!! 😮
So naturally, I tried to beat this infection on my own before resorting to the antibiotics.
If you’d rather watch me tell this story in real-time you can watch this video!
Can’t view the video? Watch on YouTube here.
I Was Determined to Avoid Antibiotics for my Skin Infection
Once I knew that the lumps weren’t cancer and I didn’t have a crazy flesh-eating bacteria that needed hospital treatment, I felt empowered to go home and try to beat this skin infection naturally.
This would probably be a good place to point out that I am not a doctor. I’m not telling you that this is what you should do, just sharing what I did and why in hopes that it may assist you in making your own decisions with your doctor. Of course, reach out to a medical professional if you need help!
I knew I had to get rid of the infection first of all, but also heal whatever gut issue was causing the initial dry patch of skin. Several elements of my treatment were taken from the Gut Thrive in 5 that I did 6 months prior.
I’m so grateful that I have a whole toolbox of natural remedies that God has created for us to heal our bodies!
This photo shows what the skin infection looked like the day I visited the doctor. You can see the initial dry skin, the flaky problematic patch in the center of the rash, but it’s also getting angry and red, the sign of cellulitis, the skin infection.
I began my home treatment as soon as I got home from the doctor on Friday and was taking something orally or applying some natural remedy to my skin infection every couple of hours over the weekend.
By the evening on Friday, I felt terrible! I realized I had a fever, I was totally drained of energy, and my side got increasingly more painful.
When I left the doctor’s, I felt perfectly fine and thought I had at least a day or two to tackle the problem on my own before considering the prescription, but I found myself staring at the orange plastic bottle, wondering, “Is this it already? Do I have to take the prescription??”
It was important to me when I left the doctor’s that I knew what to look for that signified, “This is getting worse.” Bonus tip: That’s a great question to ask your doc as you consider conventional vs. home treatment for anything, along with, “What are the risks of waiting?”
Fever, fatigue, and heat coming off the rash were the trifecta, and I already had all 3 within hours!
My temperature was around 100.5, and my husband and I Googled symptoms of sepsis, which is what may happen if an infection of any kind goes on too long and the body’s response to the chemicals in the bloodstream meant to fight the infection is out of balance.
Mayo Clinic lists symptoms of sepsis as a change in mental status, low blood pressure reading and high respiratory rate. The CDC includes fever, shivering, or feeling very cold as well as clammy or sweaty skin on its list, and everydayhealth.com clarifies that the fever needs to be over 101 degrees F. That resources also cites the survival rate of septic shock, the next level of sepsis, as only 50%!
Thankfully my heart rate and breathing rate were normal and my temperature wasn’t quite high enough. Phew! Over the course of the weekend, my temperature fluctuated between 99-100.5 degrees, but never went above that.
But the 50% mortality rate, in particular, brought into stark contrast my wish for natural skin infection remedies with how much my family needed me to be alive — this was not just some blog experiment! We watched every symptom very carefully, and I often held that orange plastic bottle with trepidation.
The pain was worse than getting my wisdom teeth out! On Friday and Saturday, I could barely do anything with my right arm. Even the movement of walking or rolling over in bed hurt so badly.
The cellulitis spot grew over the weekend as well. It became at least 3 times wider and I couldn’t tell if the sore area up by my armpit was just swollen lymph nodes or if the infection was up there too.
I tried to stay away from googling more treatment options because for one, I was tired, and two, I already knew so much, I just needed to put all my knowledge into practice. In fact, at one point my husband searched, “how to avoid antibiotics for infections,” and a helpful little website called “Kitchen Stewardship®” came up. 😉
You can see in this picture that the angry redness of the infected rash has grown about 3x, and it was definitely giving off heat, both bad signs.
Although I began to feel an improvement on Sunday in my general energy level, results were still inconclusive. On the one hand, I was feeling better, but the spot had grown.
I was well enough to go volunteer at high school youth group Sunday night, but I still felt like I was right on the edge of antibiotics vs. home remedies for this cellulitis.
My Home Treatment for Cellulitis
Internal Natural Bacterial Killing Strategies for the Skin Infection
- I took a few drops of Biocidin internally 2-3 times a day (also available on Amazon). Note: Be sure to consult someone on proper usage for Biocidin. I had used Biocidin up to 15 drops a day during Gut Thrive, so I felt confident dosing myself in this infection crisis.
- Oil of oregano capsules
- Scout Out is an herbal tincture from TriLight health that we often use when battling germs of all kinds.
- Pau d’Arco tea and Dandy Blend are both good for detox and are anti-bacterial/anti-viral.
- I did eventually choose to take some essential oils internally. This is suuuper controversial, I know! I decided that this was my last line of defense against antibiotics. A book I have said to take a germ-fighting blend, frankincense, and oregano. I didn’t have any oregano essential oil, but I was already taking oil of oregano which is a bit different. I only took the essential oils once a day, encapsulated.
- Some readers suggested homeopathy. I didn’t have much on hand but one homeopathic remedy recommended for infections is belladonna. (We had that in the house after it helped end bedwetting issues for one of my kids.) Here’s a resource with more skin infection remedies. I didn’t use this one, but I ordered some to have on hand in the future based on this information.
Internal Gut Building Remedies
- I tripled my dose of my liquid probiotic. Make sure you take your probiotics separate from any anti-bacterial treatments. You don’t want them to cancel each other out immediately!
- I took a regular dose of JustThrive probiotics. This is the only probiotic that I’ve heard you can take with antibiotics without killing them off. So I mostly took that just in case I ended up needing the antibiotics. It’s now one of my favorite probiotics to rotate! Use the code Katie15 for 15% off.
- I avoided sugar and most grains and ate lots of veggies, green juice, smoothies with greens and greens powders and healthy fats so I could flood my body with nutrients to build up my immunity and fight this infection.
External Natural Anti-Bacterial Action & Reducing Inflammation
- I made an essential oil roller with the Germ Fighter blend and copaiba for inflammation. I used a carrier oil blend with vitamin E in it which my doctor said would be good for the initial psoriasis spot. I did about a 4% dilution in my roller. I only got to use this a couple of times before I was in too much pain to apply the pressure necessary for the roller. I ended up using it on my feet instead of on the infection itself.
- Castor oil packs were part of our Gut Thrive in 5 protocol. I wasn’t sure if they’d help fight infection but I figured they couldn’t hurt.
- I used the arnica salve from Earthley several times for the pain.
- Later on, I applied thyme, frankincense, and tea tree essential oils. It hurt too much to use a roller bottle on the tender skin so I just put some carrier oil in the palm of my hand, added a drop of each essential oil and then rubbed it on. I also used those three essential oils in an Epsom salt bath. Note: Don’t add oils directly to bath water (oil and water don’t mix). Instead, shake some oils in a jar with the salts to more evenly distribute throughout the bath.
- I also applied a calendula tincture and a salve containing calendula externally.
Remedies for Lymph Support
- I rubbed Lympha Rub, an essential oil and herbal tincture blend from TriLight Health, on my lymph nodes.
- I applied warm compresses for pain and to help keep my lymph flowing.
- I did some dry brushing on the rest of my body to wake up the lymph nodes and get things moving. Do not brush directly over an open sore or infected spot!
Why so many different remedies?
First, I wanted to throw everything I could at this infection to really try to avoid the antibiotics. But also, since I didn’t know exactly what kind of bacteria I was fighting (and there could have been some yeast in there before the bacterial infection, etc), natural health experts often recommend rotating different forms of attack, basically so that (a) you get the right one for the “germ” you’re fighting, and (b) if the bad bugs try to fight back or mutate, you get them another way.
You can see why I was literally doing something every hour or two, since any anti-bacterial remedies couldn’t be taken internally at the same time as probiotics, and homeopathics need to stay 10 minutes away from water and food on either side.
I also prioritized LOTS of rest! I climbed into bed before dinner Friday, stayed in bed all day Saturday, and rested all weekend.
My kids still talk about the time they had to take over when Mom got so sick — Dad had plans that night with friends! This is just another time I was so grateful I had already taught my kids to cook so that they were fully competent when a crisis hit. They made dinner and brought some up to me on a tray in bed. *heart melts*
The best thing I did as far as pain management was to take bentonite clay baths and put hydrated clay directly on the spot. Bentonite clay is supposed to be “adsorbent” and may have literally been drawing out the infection. However it worked, I know I felt less pain after both baths and poultices.
More Suggestions from Readers that I Didn’t Try
Readers were so helpful via social media, and although I wasn’t able to try all these, it’s always interesting to share!
- Silver Shield from Nature’s Sunshine
- Angstrom silver
- An ionic silver ointment
- Fresh neem leaf tea
- Brewed tea bags applied topically
- Nutritional Response Testing to find the root of the issue and which treatments will work for you. (We’ve actually done this with my daughter and my husband thinks it’s total woo woo!)
- Ozone therapy
- Microfiber cloths with embedded silver fibers
- The “good part” of garlic stabilized
Silver nanoparticles have been shown in studies to “be active against several types of viruses.”
3rd Rock’s Silver Excelsior Serum and Silver Infusion Tonic has their patented Chelated Silver Oxide. It’s different and unique in the silver world compared to common, run-of-the-mill ‘colloidal silver’ (source).
This silver is high quality with many health-benefits. Containing amino acids, citrates, and kosher vegetable USP grade glycerin, 3rd Rock silver sticks to and penetrates cell walls—delivering silver oxide straight to cells to bolster their fight against infections in and on the body.
How Effective Were Natural Remedies Over Antibiotics for the Cellulitis?
As you can see in the photo below from Monday, the infected area didn’t look a lot better, and in fact, seemed to be spreading.
This was alarming, but the fact that overall I was feeling better and my energy levels had improved seemed an auspicious sign.
On Monday I did call my doctor to update him on what had happened over the weekend and get some feedback.
My biggest question for him was, “If I had taken the antibiotics right away on Friday afternoon, how long would they have taken to beat the infection?”
His response was 7-10 doses, which equals 2-3 days. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear!
Antibiotics aren’t magic. I spiked a fever within 4 hours of coming home from the doctor’s office. Taking antibiotics right away wouldn’t have stopped that.
I figured that if antibiotics would take 2-3 days, then natural remedies would take a bit longer, let’s assume twice as long. In that case, I was winning! I was 3 days into my treatment and beginning to feel better.
My doctor also confirmed a suspicion I’d had that when he was examining my lymph nodes, he’d probably jostled some of the bacteria loose, and that’s what spiked the sudden onset of worse symptoms I experienced Friday evening.
After getting confirmation that my doctor wasn’t concerned at this point, I was comfortable continuing with my natural treatments as long as the cellulitis spot didn’t continue to get any bigger.
At this point, I realized my biggest risks were complacency and pushing myself too hard. Since I was feeling better, I needed to be really on top of continuing my protocol so my symptoms didn’t regress and remember to rest to allow my body to heal.
The Results of my At-Home Skin Infection Treatment
I managed to keep up (although less intensely) on everything I had been trying and prioritized sleep the next few days, which is a heroic feat as a mom of 4 and a small business owner.
By Thursday I felt that I was truly out of the woods, and you can see in the photo above that the original angry red area had dissipated. It was almost as if the infection were being chased around the side of my body, as you see the new red area around back. But the fever was gone, the heat wasn’t coming off the skin anymore, and my energy was fully back.
NOW it was time to determine the root cause of the problematic area that had started my case of cellulitis and get rid of THAT! You’ll hear that story in another post (spoiler: it took much longer to make the root cause rash disappear than it did the cellulitis!).
Other Skin Infections
Since this experience, my son had impetigo, another kind of skin infection. We’ve treated it in a similar way, although we did start out with topical prescription antibiotic ointment so that my son could get cleared to go back to wrestling (the standard protocol is oral antibiotics, but the pediatrician and I both agreed that was overkill for a skin infection).
When the impetigo came back a second time, we used the antibiotic cream right away, and after 10 days, there was almost no change. I told Paul we were going to hit it hard “my way” over the weekend, and our doctor approved our treatment, which really did make the skin rash fade faster in 2 days than 10 days of the prescription!
My Faith and Modern Medicine
Even if my natural remedies failed and I’d ended up taking the antibiotic on Monday, I wouldn’t have gone back and changed my decisions over the weekend for two reasons:
- I think, as much as possible, we need to support our bodies naturally and give it a good effort before resorting to antibiotics.
- As a Catholic, I believe in the power of suffering. I believe that Christ invites us into his salvific action by uniting our suffering with his. I was offering up my pain for specific intentions, a good friend, my church’s youth group and our kids’ faith. That mattered.
I love the idea that we’re living in a created world where suffering has meaning and God gives us ways to alleviate our suffering through nature and by using our brains both to develop life-saving medicine and to make wise choices.
Antibiotics vs Natural Remedies: Both are Risky
About every 6 hours during the whole weekend my husband and I would talk about whether or not I should just take the antibiotics. There are risks either way.
I didn’t want to destroy my gut health if I could avoid it, but at the same time, I didn’t want to end up in the hospital with sepsis either.
Just a hundred years ago people died from little cuts that got infected! An infection like this could lead to sepsis and become deadly.
Thank goodness we live in an era where antibiotics are available when they’re needed! They truly do save lives. Praise the Lord for that discovery and the ingenuity that led to our ability to fight deadly infections.
I really am grateful for antibiotics, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re overprescribed (and overused in antibacterial products like soap.)
Next time you go to the doctor for you or one of your kids, and the doctor wants to prescribe antibiotics ask these questions:
- What if we wanted to wait 24 hours?
- Do I have some other options?
- Are you sure this is even bacterial?
We’re seeing antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections more and more. We’re going to use antibiotics right out of effectiveness.
I’m afraid if we continue on our current course, we’ll send future generations back to a time where a stupid little cut could become infected and lead to death.
Please, be judicious, intentional and thoughtful when using antibiotics.
Is it worth it just to ease symptoms by a couple of days? If your body can probably kick the infection, even if it takes a few days longer, please don’t take the antibiotics if you’re able. At least make sure you have a confirmed bacterial infection first as antibiotics won’t do anything against a viral infection.
Our gut microbiome is critically important to our overall health so we want to be sure to take care of it.
As consumers and parents, we need to take the initiative to ask questions and do research.
I’m praising God that I fought off this infection naturally, but I’m also so grateful that antibiotics are available, so let’s keep it that way.