Every day, the world of pediatric medicine seems to change. Sometimes even pediatricians are struggling to catch up with new developments. Here are the Top Ten Pediatric Myths that I encounter in my day to day practice:
1) Cool mist humidifiers are helpful when your baby has a cold.
While cool, moist air is better for the lining of the respiratory tract in general, there is no added value as a treatment for a baby’s cold.
2) Watching educational videos such as the Einstein videos can help your child learn.
Studies have shown that screen time for babies does not speed language acquisition and may actually be detrimental, especially when screen time is spent in place of direct parent-child interaction.
Related: AAP Says No TV for Babies
3) Inhaled steroids used over long periods of time for the treatment of asthma can lead to stunted growth in children.
While chronic use of inhaled steroids can temporarily slow growth velocity in a child, catch-up growth follows. Inhaled steroids for children with certain types of asthma are essential to reducing airway inflammation and avoiding inadequate oxygen delivery to the cells.
4) Babies need to poop every day.
It is common for parents to focus on elimination as a sign of their baby’s health, but some babies poop less frequently than others. Unless the baby is crying with a bowel movement, showing blood in the stool, or passing hard pellets, there is no need to worry. If the baby has not stooled for several days, is not eating, or is vomiting, contact your pediatrician.
5) Babies and children are over-medicated.
Pediatricians have been in the vanguard of advocating judicious use of antibiotics and other medications. Bestselling author and journalist Judith Warner recently wrote a book called ''We've Got Issues: The Myth of the Overmedicated Child" investigating whether children are being over-medicated, and much to her surprise, there was little evidence that medications were not being used prudently. However, parents need to be vigilant about the use of any medication for their child. Be sure to partner with a pediatrician that you trust so that you can follow his or her advice.
Related: Why Do Babies Spit Up?
6) If your baby has colic, switching formula may help.
Colic is an unpleasant condition in infants characterized by long bouts of screaming, arching, and parental “hair pulling-out”. It may be that colic is caused by an immaturity of the intestinal tract that seems to go away around three months of age. If there is blood and mucus in the stool, the baby may have a cow’s milk protein allergy, and a change to a pre-digested formula or, if breast feeding, elimination of milk and soy from a mother’s diet may help. But willy-nilly formula changing to stop the colicy screaming does not make scientific sense and may add to the confusion.
7) Green nasal discharge means a bacterial sinus infection requiring antibiotics.
Hardly a day goes by without a parent bringing a child in with the green goo story. Parents get frustrated with the “colds that will not quit” and were told in the past that colored nasal discharge meant that the cold was no longer just a viral infection. We now know that the color of the nasal discharge is not a good indicator as to whether there is a bacterial secondary infection usually referred to as sinusitis. Children occasionally do get bacterial sinusitis, but we rely on other signs such as ill appearance, fever, headache, tooth pain, and nasal congestion for diagnosis.
8) It is not safe to take a newborn baby outside.
Barring extreme weather conditions, once the baby achieves temperature stability (usually in the first week of life), there is no reason not to go out with the baby for a walk and fresh air. It is good for parents to get out of the house. An added benefit is learning the "get out of the house" rituals that will be needed once parents go back to work. The biggest risk to a baby under eight weeks is infecton, so avoid crowds and minimize close contact with the baby except for with healthy family members.
Related: Is Crying Out Dangerous for Kids?
9) Day care is not a good idea because my baby will be sick all the time.
After eight weeks of age, day care, if screened for high standards, is a perfectly good choice for child care. Yes, your baby will get lots of viral infections, but exposure to these viruses helps build immunity so that your child may be healthier in later years. Would you rather have your child miss "Goodnight Moon" and snack or spelling and long division?
10) Swimming causes middle ear infections.
Swimming can cause an infection of the ear canal called otitis externa or swimmer's ear, but the common middle ear infection, called otitis media, is usually caused by the common cold coupled with anatomical properties of the Eustachian tube that makes children more prone to ear infections. If your child gets recurrent swimmer's ear, he can use ear wax with a bathing cap over his ears to keep water out. There is no good way to prevent middle ear infections from the common cold.
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