By Sherry Torkos, B.Sc., Pharm
As parents, keeping your kids safe is always one of your primary concerns. Who would have thought that commonly used over-the-counter health products could pose dangers to your kids, ranging from dehydration to liver and kidney damage? Here are my top picks for smarter and safer alternatives.
For painful bumps and bruises: Children can be at particular risk of side effects from taking aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. While safe for some, these products can cause serious side effects such as liver and kidney damage, ringing in the ears, stomach bleeding, rebound headaches and hair loss. Instead, apply an ice pack to the area: 10 minutes on/10 minutes off. Ice helps relieve pain and reduce swelling. Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that can be used for minor bruises and muscle strains, even in children.
For itchy bug bites: Hydrocortisone creams help with the itching, swelling and redness. But surprisingly they can cause kids’ skin to itch, burn, dry out and change color. A natural alternative is to use an ointment that contains tea tree oil, such as Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Skin Ointment. Tea tree is antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It helps take the sting and itch out of bug bites, and it’s good for minor cuts and irritations.
For annoying allergies: Antihistamines can cause significant drowsiness along with dry eyes and mouth. A safer option for managing kids’ allergy symptoms is Similasan Kids Allergy Eye Relief. This homeopathic formula helps temporarily relieve itching, burning, redness and excessive watering of the eyes. It is safe for kids ages two and older. For congestion, use a saline nasal spray or try Similasan homeopathic Nasal Allergy Relief. It is safer than over-the-counter decongestants, which carry the risk of serious side effects such as racing heart, increased blood pressure, insomnia and thinning of the delicate nasal lining.
For constipation and diarrhea: Laxatives are one of the most commonly overused and abused over-the-counter drugs. Laxative overuse can be dangerous, and can lead to dehydration as well as a condition known as “lazy colon” along with other problems. Instead, give kids a good soluble fiber supplement such as Sunfiber. It mixes well with water, and is tasteless and odorless. When consumed with fluids, soluble fiber swells in the intestine and works effectively to aid both constipation and loose stools. Probiotics can also help manage constipation and diarrhea by improving levels of beneficial gut bacteria. Look for Kyo-Dophilus Chewable Probiotic Tablets, which are stable at room temperature and have a guaranteed potency.
For coughs/sore throats: Many OTC cough and cold products are not recommended for children less than four years old because studies have found that they really don’t help the symptoms and they carry the risk of significant side effects. For minor throat and bronchial irritations due to colds – including tickling cough and fever – Similasan Kids Cough & Fever Relief provides temporary relief and is safe for children as young as two. Buckwheat honey is great for managing a sore throat. It contains antioxidants and nutrients that help speed healing. It also lubricates and soothes the throat. Buckwheat honey can be given to children age one year and over, and is available in most health food stores.
For motion sickness: OTC products for motion-sickness, such as Dramamine, can cause significant drowsiness and dizziness. A safer alternative is ginger. It has been found to be comparable to OTC motion sickness products for alleviating nausea without causing drowsiness. Most kids love ginger ale made with real ginger, such as Reed’s Ginger Brew, which is found in health food stores.
For sun protection: Many sunscreens contain harsh and irritating chemicals, such as oxybenzone, which can penetrate the skin, cause allergic skin reactions and may disrupt hormones. For a safer and natural option, choose a mineral-based sunscreen that contains zinc oxide. Zinc provides a physical barrier to the sun’s rays rather than chemical protection. Look for Goddess Garden Organics sunscreens, which contain organic ingredients and are safe for sensitive skin. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which need to be applied at least 20 minutes before going in the sun, products containing zinc provide immediate protection. For skin that’s red and uncomfortable from too much sun, try cool compresses with pure aloe vera gel to alleviate the pain and promote healing.
Since we never know when kids will need them, I always advise parents to keep these items on hand and readily available.
Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author, and certified fitness instructor. As a leading health expert, she has delivered hundreds of lectures to medical professionals, and is frequently interviewed on radio and TV talk shows throughout North America and abroad. Sherry has authored 18 books, including Saving Women’s Hearts,The Canadian Encyclopedia for Natural Medicine, The Glycemic Index Made Simple, Winning at Weight Loss and Breaking the Age Barrier.