The Kid’s Doctor
By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
I am sitting here writing this while sucking on a honey-lemon throat lozenge and drinking hot tea, as it is certainly cough and cold season and unfortunately I woke up with a scratchy throat. I am trying to drink enough tea to drown it out. While I am not sure it will work, drinking hot tea all day will not hurt you!
At the same time (multitasking) I am also reading an email from a mother with a 4-month-old baby, and they are out of town. Her baby now has a fever and runny nose, and she sent me a picture of a homeopathic product for “mucus and cold relief.” She wonders if it is safe to give to her infant. The short answer is NO. (Even though the product says BABY on the label and has a picture of an infant.)
Although homeopathic medicines were first used in the 18th century and are “probably safe,” it is still unclear if they really work. Unfortunately, there have been adverse events and deaths associated with some products (see articles on teething tablets). The principle of homeopathy is that “ailments can be cured by taking small amounts of products that, in large amounts, would cause the very symptom you are treating. In other words, “like cures like.” These products contain “natural ingredients” that cause the symptoms that you are trying to treat, but that have been so diluted as to hopefully stimulate your body’s immune system to fight that very symptom. In this case, congestion and runny nose due to a cold.
I looked at all of the ingredients, which included Byronia, Euphrasia, Hepar and Natrum to name a few. Byronia is used as a laxative for constipation, Euphrasia is supposed to help with inflammation, Hepar is for people who tend to get “cold and therefore cranky and irritable” and Natrum is used for inflammation due to “too much lactic acid.” This is the short version. The bottle also says contains less than 0.1 percent alcohol, but it has alcohol!
While the FDA does monitor how homeopathic medications are made, it does not require these companies to show proof that these medications do what they say they do, as they are “natural.” With that being said, natural does not always mean effective or safe. Just as over the counter cold and cough medications are not recommended for children under the age of 2, I too would not recommend homeopathic products be given to an infant.
Best treatment for a cold and cough in young children? Use a saline nasal spray followed by nasal suctioning to relieve the nasal congestion and mucus. I would also use a cool mist humidifier in the baby’s room to keep moisture in the air and help thin the mucus (especially once the heat is on in the house). Make sure the baby is still taking fluids (breast or bottle); you may also add some electrolyte solution to give your baby extra fluids if you feel as if they are not eating as well. Lastly, always watch for any respiratory distress or prolonged fever, and check in with your pediatrician!
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.