Baby Health Myths Every Parent Should Know

Baby Facts by Andrew Adesman, M.D.
Grandparents, friends, and society flood parents with well-meaning advice, but how can Mom and Dad be sure they are receiving accurate information? With help from Dr. Andrew Adesman and his book "Baby Facts", we separate baby myths from reality.
BananaStock/ Jupiter
BananaStock/ Jupiter

The Truth About Over-the-Counter Meds

Myth: Over-the-counter children's cough/cold remedies offer safe, speedy recovery and achieve faster cures than letting a cold run its normal course.

Reality: Cold and cough medicines are not recommended for children under 4 years of age.

Dr. Adesman Explains: "Over-the-counter baby medications have increasingly gotten 'blacklisted' from a pediatric standpoint. Parents feel better about doing something rather than nothing, but in reality, the medications don't work that well and are not necessary. Accidental overdose is another serious risk."

Editor's Note: From an October 2008 report the FDA recommends that no over-the-counter cough and cold medicines be given to children under 6.

PhotoAlto/ Veer
PhotoAlto/ Veer

Herbal Remedies

Myth: Herbal cold/flu remedies (like echinacea) are safe and effective treatments for your sick child.

Reality: Though echinacea is usually safe, always use caution when offering children any herbal or natural remedy.

Dr. Adesman Explains: "Data on most natural cold and flu remedies is limited at best. In some cases, you may be giving your child a substance that could cause harm. On the other hand, some natural remedies are helpful. For example, although honey is not safe for kids before their first birthday, it is actually pretty good when it comes to treating a cough."

BananaStock/ Jupiter
BananaStock/ Jupiter

Must-Know Fever Facts

Myth: It's OK to alternate ibuprofen with acetaminophen when treating fever.

Reality: Alternating medication is unnecessary and can pose risks for children.

Dr. Adesman Explains: "In general, fever is not necessarily the enemy. Fever is the body's way, in part, to rid infection. Whereas an elevated temperature in a newborn or young infant is always a concern warranting medical evaluation, parents of febrile toddlers and preschoolers should focus more on how the child appears and behaves than on how high the temperature is. Parents sometimes worry that high fever will cause a "febrile seizure." Parents need to remember it is not the height of the temperature but rather the sudden spike in temperature that may lead to a convulsion. Although parents may be tempted to treat fevers aggressively, alternating fever medications is associated with a risk of inappropriate dosing if the medication schedule is confused. However, if a child has a history of seizures, then more aggressive fever control may be recommended."

Ear Infection Basics

Myth: Almost all children get ear infections, which need to be treated with antibiotics.

Reality: Ear infections are common, but manageable -- not always with antibiotics.

Dr. Adesman Explains: "This is a big change in America because for decades, pediatricians have been very aggressive in treating ear infections. In Scandinavia, on the other hand, childhood ear infections have, for many years, been generally left untreated. The change in treatment recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics is based on the fact that 80% of all children with ear infections (acute otitis media or AOM) get better on their own, without antibiotics."


Vaccines and Autism

Myth: Vaccines cause autism.

Reality: All the science fails to show a link between vaccines and autism.

Dr. Adesman Explains: "With respect to the autism 'epidemic,' it's important that families recognize that in recent years, there has been a marked shift in the definition of autism, which makes it seem like rates have increased. Autism is now recognized as a 'spectrum disorder' -- with many more mild cases that were previously never classified as "autism." In addition, children with other developmental disorders, such as mental retardation or language disorders, are also now being classified as having autism. This diagnostic substitution has led to a further increase in the reported number of children with autism. In reality, there may be some rise in the number of children with autism spectrum disorders, but experts are not certain there has been any increase in the frequency of what had originally been defined as autism. The benefits of immunizations to your child and the overall community far outweigh any risks."

About Dr. Andrew Adesman

Dr. Adesman is Chief of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Schneider Children's Hospital in New York and an associate professor in the Pediatrics Department at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His book Baby Facts reveals more than 200 startling myths and facts about babies' and young children's health, growth, care, and more.

Copyright &copy 2009 Meredith Corporation.

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