Advice is free and is doled out in plenty. If you are a new parent, you’ve had it. Here are 5 such wrong advices that can drive you crazy!
By Dr Rajath Athreya
Advice is free and is doled out in plenty. If you are a new parent, you’ve had it. Sometimes, even us doctors are not immune from overprescribing medicines to allay parental anxieties. We now pick five such instances from a whole host of them and tell you why they are ‘wrong advices’.
Yes, fever can be a sign of illness, sometimes needing urgent medical attention. And it can be distressing for a parent. But, do you have to start panicking the moment you realise your child’s body temperature is above normal? Let’s face it, fever is a response to infections, most commonly viruses. What many parents do not understand is that fever is also a defence mechanism – after all, many bugs do not survive high temperatures. But, it has become a widespread practice now to have a tiered prescription to target escalating body temperatures. This is not only unnecessary, but risks children getting repeated doses of both safe and not-so-safe medications. A fever around 100 F, if the child is comfortable, doesn’t need much attention. Simple measures like removing a few layers of clothing may make her comfortable. If fever increases or if the child is looking exhausted, offer her a right dose of paracetamol (safest of the fever medications). Just wait after that. Unfortunately, for many parents, panic sets in if fever doesn’t come down in 15 minutes. Remember, it takes time. The anxiety is more acute if the child has a febrile convulsion (fits that come with fever in young children). There is very little you can do to prevent a febrile fit and it is harmless (talk to your doctor if your child has one). If your child has sudden high fever without any explanation (like a runny nose or mild cough) and looks ill, please seek help. Overall, when it comes to fever, I often feel there is one medication that is missing from our prescriptions - Patience. How I wish it came bottled and was sold in pharmacies!
Your toddler is both a magnet and an efficient vehicle for viruses. His developing immunity is meeting all the new viruses – more abundant in cold season and more likely to be contracted in crowded, enclosed spaces like crèches and lifts. With every new person he meets, every new environment he is introduced to, his immunity becomes vulnerable and he is likely to get another cold. Well, this is how his body learns to fight all the viruses. Colds and coughs (with mild fever) are almost always caused by viruses. They do not hide in milk, bananas, chocolates or whatever food you believe gave him a cold again! No food needs to be avoided to prevent or treat these ailments.
I battle with this deep-seated misconception about ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ foods with parents all the time. It is the snotty noses, the hands that touch door knobs and the spray of virus that comes from a sneeze, which bring colds and coughs to your little one, not the humble fruit or milk. Likewise, there are NO foods that will turn into mucus or phlegm! Your body produces mucus and phlegm to trap the bugs and fight them out. Let it be! But hey, reach out for the fruit bowl and the glass of milk – they're bursting with goodness.
If you are among those who works to a chart and a timetable, you weren’t so when you were a six-month-old, were you? I often see diet charts downloaded or prescribed, and parents struggling to find avocados or mill cereals and nuts. We seem to be on a mission to get it right to the hour and minute and to the last grain of oat or ragi. Following a diet chart to the T will often result in rigidity thus making meal times stressful. This, in turn, leads to fussy eating. Alternatively, practice responsive feeding; do not force, threaten or distract. Instead, talk to your baby, make eye contact and interact with her during meal times. Respond to her moods and appetite. What you need to do is to work with your child based on her temperament and readiness. Follow a very broad guideline to match child’s age and nutrition requirements as given in the chart.
QUICK TIP: Stick to gradual introduction of cereals, pulses, seasonal fruits and vegetables to begin with. Feed fewer times but definitely when your baby is ready. Start with a sloppy texture and build it up. Talk to your doctor if you really feel there is a problem.
There are no medicines to digest food. Your baby was made the right way, to produce digestive juices when she eats. Her body very efficiently digests all that you feed her. Are there fussy eaters? Are most children wary of being fed? Do they hate being force-fed? Yes, yes and yes! If you think your child is not hungry any time of the day – just put a bar of chocolate in front of her, and watch her wolf it down! So, appetite is not the issue unless your child is not well or is recovering from an illness. The problem lies with lack of developing good eating habits (like family meals, finger feeding, not feeding milk or snacks between meals) rather than lack of appetite. Are there medicines that can make you feel hungry? Probably yes. As a side effect, even steroids make you want to eat all the time. Even if you gave her something as harmful as that, she will still be more hungry for that chocolate than your khichdi! I sometimes see babies on medications that contain cyproheptadine (a chemical that usually treats allergies, which is also used to increase the appetite in a child). In theory, it does make your child hungrier, but the side effects range from sedation, dizziness to liver dysfunction. So, the bottom line: no medicine can make her eat!
"I say he should keep his monkey cap on, he flings it off and you see he has yet another cold!" I have heard many parents say this. Cold weather certainly brings more colds and coughs as viruses thrive in lower temperatures, and not because cold breeze hit your child. Children should be dressed for comfort (maybe for style too!) But not to thwart infections. Just because your child has started nursery and is getting a cold every other week, don’t put him in a space suit in the hot summer. Likewise, when they have a fever, they need light clothing. Comfort always comes first.
DR RAJATH ATHREYA IS A CONSULTANT PAEDIATRICIAN AND LEAD NEONATOLOGIST AT RAINBOW CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL, BENGALURU
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