As a mother, I always find myself turning straight to the medicine cupboard when one of my children is sick. Desperate to fix them, desperate to keep my child well and healthy. And then, as a pharmacist, I go to work and ironically find myself encouraging people not to take medications.
After more than sixteen years working as a pharmacist, it still surprises me how often this situation arises. Whilst striving to do the best for themselves and their loved ones, I discover that many people are unnecessarily taking – and giving – treatments that may actually do more harm than good.
And the biggest offenders are often parents. Me included, it would seem!
The Top 5 Treatments I Encourage You NOT to Give Your Children*
WORMING TREATMENTS – children do not need to be wormed regularly like we do our pets
The most common worms that humans catch are threadworms (also known as pinworms), which are relatively easy to treat. They are mostly spread amongst preschool and school-aged children, and it’s important to note that we cannot and do not catch threadworms from animals. You only need to treat for worms when there are signs of an infection in your family – speak with your GP or pharmacist if you’re unsure.
There is absolutely no need to regularly worm your children, and worming treatments do not offer any ongoing protection from future infections as they cannot prevent anyone from catching worms. The very rare worms that potentially can be picked up from your pets are easily controlled by treating your pets regularly as advised by your vet.
ANTIBIOTICS – most common childhood infections are viral, which cannot be treated with antibiotics
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, which need to be diagnosed by a GP. Many of the more serious childhood bacterial infections can be safely prevented through routine immunisation.
Most common childhood illnesses – such as colds, coughs, sore throats, and ear infections – are generally caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. However your child may need other treatments to help ease their symptoms while their immune system fights the virus.
Speak with your GP or pharmacist if you are concerned about your child’s illness, as there may be times when a bacterial infection is diagnosed and your child will require a course of antibiotics. Careful prescribing of antibiotics is vital to minimise the development of bacteria that have become resistant to our available antibiotics.
FEVER TREATMENTS – fever is a sign of an illness, not an illness in itself, so it doesn’t always need to be treated
In children, a temperature that rises to 38°C (100.4°F) or above is considered a fever. Fevers in children are common and are usually caused by infections, because a raised temperature is an effective way for the body to fight a virus or bacteria. Importantly, a fever is not always dangerous and does not always indicate a serious illness.
Most fevers generally do not require specific treatment, although it’s important to give your child plenty of water to drink to avoid dehydration. If your child’s fever is making them uncomfortable, you may choose to give them a treatment to lower their temperature.
Prompt medical attention is required for a prolonged fever, young babies with a fever, children with a temperature of 40°C (104°F) or more, or if your child has any other accompanying signs or symptoms of concern. Always trust your instincts!
HOMEOPATHIC FORMULATIONS – unproven treatments can delay conventional medical treatments for serious conditions
Homeopathy is a well-known form of alternative therapy, the effectiveness of which is yet to be proven by medical science. Homeopathic formulations are not at all harmful in themselves, however a very real threat arises if they are relied upon in place of conventional medical treatment for serious infections or illnesses. Therefore it’s important to speak with your GP or pharmacist before selecting a homeopathic remedy for your baby or child, particularly for a serious or prolonged illness.
VITAMINS & MINERALS – children only require vitamin or mineral supplements if a deficiency is suspected or has been detected
Many parents feel inclined to give their children vitamin and mineral supplements due to their own anxieties about their children’s eating habits. However our bodies only need very small amounts of individual vitamins and minerals. More isn’t necessarily better, and, in fact, large amounts of certain vitamins and minerals can actually be quite dangerous.
If your child has a specific deficiency, as identified by your GP or dietitian, then supplements can certainly improve your child’s general health. But, importantly, our bodies absorb vitamins and minerals much more readily from fresh foods than from supplements.
Worryingly, many of the supplements now available for children contain very high levels of sugar and are made to look just like sweets. It’s vital that we maintain a clear distinction between medications and confectionary with our children, and we must also be mindful that we’re not inadvertently teaching our children that supplements replace healthy eating.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace or negate any individual medical advice you or your child has been given. Speak with your GP, physician or pharmacist if you have any concerns.
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