Child Health Myths Every Parent Should Know

When your baby's sick, make sure you know what will help—and what won’t. And by all means, consult a doctor.

By Reader's Digest Editors

Few things are more frightening than a sick child. But before you rush out to the drugstore, make sure you know what will help—and what won’t. And by all means, consult a doctor.

Myth: It’s safe and effective to dose your child alternately with ibuprofen and acetaminophen to bring down a fever.

Truth: Most of the time, fever is not your child’s enemy; fever is part of how the body rids itself of infection. While it’s important to monitor feverish children, parents should focus more on the child’s behavior and appearance than on how high a temperature is. Alternating fever medicines has been associated with a higher risk of overdose.

Myth: Over-the-counter cough and cold remedies are completely safe and will help babies get better faster.

Truth: Cough and cold remedies are not recommended for children under age 4. The medications don’t work very well, won’t cure a cold faster than letting it run its course, and introduce the dangers of overdose.

Myth: Herbal remedies such as echinacea are safe and helpful to a sick child.

Truth: Few herbal remedies have undergone rigorous testing. Some could in fact cause your child harm.

Myth: Giving your child high doses of vitamins can ward off a cold.

Truth: Vitamins can help a child who is deficient in a particular nutrient, but scores of studies have found that mega-doses of multivitamins or vitamin C do not reduce the risk of catching a cold. Also, many vitamins are toxic in high doses.

Myth: All ear infections need to be treated with antibiotics.

Truth: About 80 percent of ear infections will clear up on their own, without antibiotics. It’s always best to avoid antibiotics unless they are really needed, to avoid building up resistance.

Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever.

Truth: All sick children, whether feverish or sniffling, need nutrients. If they don’t feel like solid food, make sure they get plenty of soup, juice, and other healthful liquids.

Sources: Parents.com, fornewmoms.com, spryliving.com, CNN.com

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