The medication equation

By Daniel B. Kessler, M.D.

As we gear up for the cold and flu season — and the inevitable runny noses that come from holiday travel — parents often ask me questions about medications and their little ones.

They have questions about what medications are “safe” for kids. They wonder if natural remedies are better and how best to administer medications for children to ensure they actually get the full prescribed dose. And the list goes on.

Misinformation and worry

I think there are so many questions surrounding medication for two reasons. First, there is a lot of misinformation about medication, especially in what you read online and perhaps even what you hear from other parents. It can be daunting to wade through this information and determine what is fact and what is fiction.

Second, it is easy to make a decision for yourself to take medication. But as a parent, you weigh this decision very carefully for your child, and rightly so, because you may worry about how long your child will need to be on the medication and what the side effects may be. You may also want to know if there are natural alternatives.

Is natural safer?

With regard to natural remedies, I think there is a misconception as to what “natural” means. Tobacco is natural because it grows in nature but you wouldn’t let your child go near it! So keep in mind that natural doesn’t always equate to something safe for your child.

As a pediatrician, I’m constantly looking at the scientific information that a remedy put forward for a condition actually works — regardless of whether it is found in nature or is man-made.

Many scientists also are taking a closer look at diet and how this can impact certain conditions. While the jury is still out on gluten-free diets or increasing omega-3 fatty acids helping with conditions such as ADHD and autism, I can say without a doubt that all of us should be eating better and that eating more fruits and vegetables of all colors is a good “natural” step parents can take for the health of children.

A team approach

The bottom line when it comes to medications is that every child is different and should be treated as such. Ask lots of questions and work with your pediatrician to understand your child’s unique needs – together you can determine a course of action best suited for your little one.

Daniel B. Kessler, M.D.

Daniel B. Kessler, M.D., is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and medical director of the Children’s Developmental Center at Easter Seals Southwest Human Development. His private practice, where he provides evaluation and treatment for children and adolescents, is located at Southwest Human Development.

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