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A Parent’s Guide to Medicine Safety

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As parents, we never want to see our children sick.

It’s often painful for us to see our children in discomfort and it’s also difficult to comfort them when they don’t understand why they’re sick.

Sickness leads to bad moods and cranky kids, which in turn leave parents frustrated and often the whole family gets stressed out when sickness invades the home.

Our first response is usually to find a medicine that will cure the illness. But along with curing whatever ails your child, there are certain dangers associated with medicines, both prescription and over the counter (OTC).

This guide will help you decide if medicine is even a necessary treatment, safety tips to ensure your child gets the correct dosage, natural remedies, tips for when to seek medical attention, and questions you need to ask your pediatrician.

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Cold Symptoms: Does Your Child Need Medicine?

What do you do when your child comes home from school sniffling? Or has a nagging cough? Or has a slight fever? Do you run right to the store to get some cough and cold medicine?

Many OTC medicines treat the symptoms only, rather than the illness itself, so you should determine just how uncomfortable your child is before doling out the medicine. Medicines are most effective against severe symptoms rather than minor symptoms. A slight case of the sniffles doesn’t require medicine but severe congestion can benefit from a decongestant. Use simple common sense or call your pediatrician to determine the severity of your child’s symptoms.

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Also take your child’s age into consideration when determining if she needs medicine. Infant OTC medicines have been deemed unreliable for treating symptoms. Children under the age of 2 risk the possibility of severe, life-threatening side effects from some OTC medicines and the FDA is currently reviewing the guidelines for toddlers.

Considering that these medicines are all man-made and full of chemicals, do we really want our children ingesting medicines that might cause them harm, especially if they don’t really need it? If there’s any question about the effectiveness, why risk the possible side-effects?

Treating Fever and Pain

Children present with fevers when their bodies are starting to fight off some sort of infection or illness. Fever is the body’s natural way of trying to heal itself or ridding itself of the invading germs. But many parents panic and run to get aspirin or some other fever reducer.

NOTE: Children under the age of 21 should avoid taking aspirin at all costs.

Treating any viral infection (such as a cold, chicken pox, or flu) with aspirin can be dangerous and might lead to a life-threatening disease called Reyes syndrome.

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Just as with the cold symptoms, there are various degrees of severity with fevers. A mild fever (up to 100.4 degrees F) can be caused by simple exercise, taking a hot bath, or wearing too many clothing layers. This is considered normal and no need to worry or break out the medicine.

NOTE: Infants always require medical treatment if they have a fever over 100 degrees F.

Temperatures higher than 100.4 degrees F. are considered feverish and you will sometimes see changes in your child’s demeanor. He may be sluggish, more tired, and less hungry. It’s important to watch for these symptoms so you can discuss with your doctor if the fever is a symptom of a more serious illness.

Doctors generally accept treating fevers once the child shows signs of discomfort with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) products. Since ibuprofen also treats inflammation as well as pain and fever, it is stronger than acetaminophen. Accidental overdoses are common with both products so much care is necessary when giving your child either medicine.

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