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You Should Call the Pediatrician If...

Treating Symptoms at Home
Are Antibiotics Needed?
Often, your child's pediatrician won't write you a prescription for antibiotics. The doctor isn't being stingy; antibiotics will only treat bacterial infections. If your child were to take an antibiotic for a viral infection like the cold or flu, not only would the medication be useless, but it could build up his or her resistance to antibiotics, making future illnesses more difficult to treat.

Have you ever noticed that the remedies a mom (or dad) gives just seem to be better? Even when you grow up and become a parent yourself, you find yourself longing for your mom's chicken soup when you're sick. Some of the best care you can give your child is your own. Of course you should always follow standard medical guidelines, but adding in a few homespun treatments and TLC are often what the doctor orders as well.

You should keep your house -- and car -- stocked with standard first aid kits for minor injuries. Supplies such as bandages, rubbing alcohol, ice packs, sterile gauze, hydrocortisone cream and tweezers can address a number of injuries, from splinters and ticks to sprains and skinned knees.

If your child seems to have a common cold or run-of-the mill stomach virus, you'll find that the aisles of your local drugstore are filled with antidotes to their symptoms. Always opt for children's versions of medicines rather than adult varieties. In some cases, adult formulas can be given to children at lower doses, but it's best to consult with your pharmacist or pediatrician before selecting such an option. Keep in mind that cold and flu medicines shouldn't be given to children under age 2, throat lozenges shouldn't be given to children under age 4 and ibuprofen shouldn't be given to babies under 6 months of age. Ask your doctor about risks associated with aspirin and Reye's syndrome, which causes swelling of the liver and brain.

While you're at the drugstore, be sure to pick up a thermometer if you don't already have one. It's important for keeping track of a child's fever when he or she is sick.

There are other things beyond medication you can do to help ease your child's symptoms:

  • Humidifiers and vaporizers help ease nasal and chest congestion
  • Saline solution (either store-bought or homemade) is good for a stuffy nose
  • Honey is great for a cough, but don't give it to babies under a year old

And about mom's chicken soup ... a study by a researcher at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the comfort food has an actual medicinal effect on upper respiratory infections due to certain anti-inflammatory properties in its ingredients.

On the next page, we have lots more information on childhood illnesses and health conditions.