As cold and flu season ramps up, doctors are issuing parents some surprising advice: do not give children over-the-counter medicines at the first onset of fever.
Dr. Marianne Calvanese, a naturopathic physician at Austin Naturopathic in Austin, Texas, said one of the defenses the body has against infection is a fever, which, in many cases, is beneficial.
“A fever is a way for the body to get rid of viruses and bacteria,” Calvanese told AMI Newswire, adding that over the years, an important message about the human body has been lost.
“For the last 70 years, or so, society has turned to pharmaceuticals for treatment more and more, yet the body has the ability to heal itself,” Calvanese said. “The only exceptions are when there is an underlying chronic illness, severe illness or trauma.”
In the U.S., $51.4 million was spent on Children’s Tylenol and $46.7 million on Children's Motrin in 2013, according to IRI, an American market research company.
A 2015 report by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that over-the-counter (OTC) pediatric oral liquid drug products containing acetaminophen have been linked to “serious adverse events, including severe liver damage and death.”
Dr. Rebecca Principe, a naturopathic physician at Kwan-Yin Healing Arts Center East and True Health Medicine in Oregon, said she isn’t against the idea of cold medications, fever reducers or remedies to make kids feel better, but said parents tend to turn to conventional medicine too quickly.
“A common misconception is that (kids) are not strong enough and their bodies need medication. But when you think about it, there are very few things that kids, even adults are going to get that’s going to kill us,” Principe said. “The body is going to fight it off and figure it out.”
Increased concern over the side effects associated with the use of OTC cold remedies on children has led an increasing number of parents to opt for natural alternatives.
Rudy Nehrling, owner of Good Earth Natural Food in Indianapolis, said the interest in natural-based remedies has grown immensely over the years.
“When we first opened in the 70s it was just a handful of people that would come here because we had a handful of products you couldn’t find anywhere,” Nehrling said. “And now, major stores carry many natural products.”
One of the most sought after products in his store is elderberry, a naturally growing plant that boosts the immune system and has antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Long used as a medicinal staple around the world, elderberry is often sold in natural food stores as the whole plant, a syrup, lozenge or as a pill.
But many parents are either unaware of the berry or do not believe a natural product can be effective.
A study examined elderberry syrup and its effectiveness against influenza A or B viruses. Sixty participants suffering from flu symptoms were given either elderberry syrup or a placebo five times a day. The study found that the elderberry syrup relieved symptoms four days earlier and the use of medication was significantly reduced.
While there is a wide range of natural products parents can user to treat colds, they often err in not focusing enough on prevention.
Every child has a unique population of microbes in their intestine that plays a key role in overall health and is influenced by external factors like the food they eat, the air they breathe and other environmental factors. Having good gut bacteria helps kids fend off colds and the flu.
“Incorporating fermented foods and probiotics – which are live bacteria that are beneficial for the immune system – into their diets are some things parents can do for (their children),” Calvanese said.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, natto and tempeh increase the level of fermenting bacteria in the gut, and yogurt containing live active cultures is rich in probiotics.
Fruits and vegetables containing fibers and natural sugars also go a long way in improving gut bacteria diversity.
“From my perspective, I think the biggest mistake parents make with treating colds in kids is (neglecting) the big-picture immune support that kids need through the winter time,” Principe said. “And that comes down to a healthy diet.”