Unfortunately, that intense protective desire sometimes runs counter to what is truly best for our children. Although we have become conditioned as a society to grabbing medicine for every symptom (as targets of intense pharmaceutical industry marketing which also influences physicians) often the best strategy is to provide nothing more than TLC while allowing nature to work its magic.
For example, a fever is our body’s brilliant natural way of fighting an infecting organism, while sneezing, coughing, and runny nose help clear the organism out. However, when we routinely deploy fever reducers, antihistamines, and decongestants, we are actually constraining our child’s immune system, thickening secretions, and increasing the risk of complications like ear or sinus infections. Studies have shown that those who take fever-reducing medicine during a course of influenza, for example, actually prolong the infection! So faced with a miserable cold (sore throat, congestion, sneezing, coughing), we recommend nasal saline, Mucinex to keep secretions thin, and warm liquids like chicken soup or tea with lemon and honey (raw honey should only be given to kids over 1 year given botulism risk) . OTC zinc lozenges or sprays, vitamin C, Echinacea, ginseng, and probiotics may help relieve cold symptoms but all have side effects and risks as well. Antibiotics are useless for colds and even most bronchitis or sinus infections. Seek care of a physician for fever over 100.4, symptoms lasting more than 10 days, or progressive worsening of symptoms. Any lethargy, breathing difficulty, or inability to keep down fluids also necessitates emergent medical attention.
The lack of quality pediatric research for many medicines and recent FDA advisories regarding caution with teething medicines, Tylenol overdose risk, and cough medicines (none of which are more effective than tea with lemon and honey), should have us exceedingly restrained about medicating our children. However, natural products are drugs too, with risks, side effects, interaction potential with other medications, and are even less well studied or regulated. The better part of valor with our kids medically is to keep it simple, do no harm, and have a well-established relationship with a trusted Family Physician or Pediatrician who can guide you on the safest course of action.
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