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Top 10 Pediatric Myths

By Heather Turgeon |

kids health

10 myths about kids health

Harvard Pediatrician Dr. Victoria McEvoy compiled a list last week of the top 10 myths about children’s health. It’s a relevant topic, because as kids get back to school and bacteria and viruses start to spread, the doctors office becomes a popular place to be. I picked the best and added a couple of my own.

1. Green snot is really bad. One of the most common misconceptions, according to McEvoy, is that green snot  usually means a bacterial sinus infection needing antibiotics. But color isn’t helpful in diagnosing an infection, says McEvoy. You use symptoms like appearance, fever, tooth pain, headache and nasal congestion to judge.

But the myth McEvoy cited that made parents angry in the comments section had to do with daycare…

2. Daycare is not good because your child will be sick all the time. McEvoy says this is not true — after 8 weeks a baby is ready to be in daycare and being exposed to viruses and bacteria will only build the immune system. It made parents mad, I guess because some really don’t buy the idea that sickness in babies is okay or that kids need exposure to germs to build immunity.

From my perspective, getting sick is not a reason to keep kids out of daycare or put them in for that matter. Daycare is a personal choice based on work, family, finances, your own child’s personality…and by the way, research shows daycare is emotionally and developmentally a perfectly suitable place for kids.

More myths about children’s health:

3. Cool mist humidifiers are good for a baby’s cold (Good for overall respiratory health says McEvoy, but they don’t help more during a cold).

4. Inhaled steroids over a long periods for treatment of asthma will stunt growth.

5. Babies need to poop every day (Not true, says McEvoy. They vary a lot in frequency).

6. Babies and children are over-medicated (I think McEvoy was referring to antibiotics. What about medicating for behavioral problems and depression, which has gotten a lot of press lately).

7. It’s not safe to take a baby outside. After the first week if baby is healthy there’s no reason not to go for a walk, she says.

8. If your baby has colic, switching formula will help.

9. Keeping dairy out of your child’s diet will help with congestions (This is one of mine, which I learned from researching an article on kids colds).

10. You can catch a cold by being cold outside (Not true, read our Babble article on treating Kids’ Colds).

Image: Flickr/edenpictures

More from Heather Turgeon:

Non Stick Chemicals Linked to Higher Cholesterol in Kids

Too Many Moms Still Die in Childbirth: Report

The Best, Speediest Ways to Get Out the Door on Time.

Your Baby is About to Get Chubbier: Pediatricians Are Switching Growth Charts.

Are You Too Empathetic?

Are You in Control of Your House?

Doctors Misdiagnosed in all Cases of Infant Death From Whooping Cough

Are Psychopaths Born or Made?

Too Much Pregnancy Weight Sets Up Babies for Obesity

Antipsychotic Medications for Toddlers?

C-Section Twice as Likely When Doctors Induce Labor.

Why I Abandoned the “Readiness” Approach to Potty Training.

Are Babies Sleeping Less These Days?  5 Nap Tips and More.

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About Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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13 thoughts on “Top 10 Pediatric Myths

  1. bob says:

    Daycare builds immunity by making kids sick more often. I have 2 points to make here: First that not all sickness builds useful immunity. You can get the same disease (or one of a zillion minor variations) over and over. Second, there may be better times in one’s life to build one’s immunity. Young children who can’t communicate well can’t tell you what hurts and you can’t explain to them what is happening when they’re throwing up or covered in sores or whatever. I’m speaking from recent personal experience and I’m not saying you shouldn’t put your kids in daycare, but it’s important to understand that your kid will be sick more than those that stay home and a good deal of that sickness will serve little purpose. Save up your vacation days for all the times they’ll be sent home – and they can’t return for 24 hours after a fever breaks.
    Let me also take on another pediatric myth: The doctor’s office is a place to go to get well. No matter how careful you are, your kid is going to catch something horrible nearly every time you visit the pediatrician, from the doctor, the air, the part of the exam table not covered by paper, or the toys and books tempting them in the waiting room. Pinkeye, RSV, hand foot and mouth… they’re crawling all over the place. If you actually let her touch stuff, she’ll get like 6 things at the same time.

  2. LogicalMama says:

    Dairy DEFINITELY adds to congestion. I have no doubts about that- not a myth.

  3. Laure68 says:

    “Babies and children are over-medicated (I think McEvoy was referring to antibiotics. What about medicating for behavioral problems and depression, which has gotten a lot of press lately).”

    Contrary to popular belief, Americans in general are not over-medicated. In fact, we take less medication per capita than almost every other industrialized country. The reason so many people think we are over-medicated is that the media loves to play up these individual, anecdotal stories of a couple of people who received too much medication. (This takes away from the real problem, which is that a lot of Americans should be getting medication but cannot afford it.)

    I am certainly not a specialist in pediatric psychiatry, but I wonder if this is the case here. (That the media picks out one or two cases and makes it look like a trend.) The original article on kids being over-medicated was from the NY Times, and they tend to do this a lot.

  4. JCF says:

    Dairy may not cause congestion for all kids, but for kids who don’t tolerate dairy well (I’m talking a more mild intolerance, not a full-blown allergy), congestion is a common symptom.

  5. APY says:

    While you may not want a child under 1 year to be exposed to a lot of germs, they still need to be exposed. My mom knew a kid growing up whose house was TOO clean. This girl caught EVERYTHING that went around. It’s like trying to play in the big (name fav. sport here) game without practicing: you need exposure to it do know how to do it properly. If your body never gets a chance to fight off minor infection (e.g. colds, mild stomach bug), it’ll never be able to fight off major infections (nasty flu, mono, severe stomach flu, etc.)
    Also, dispense with the sanitizer unless you are changing a diaper or something like that. These kill both the bad germs and the bacteria that defend against these germs. It’s like using nukes: sure you kill the bad guys, but you’re taking out the good ones too. I work with special needs kids who are constantly coughing, sneezing, etc. on me. I rarely touch sanitizer. Did I get sick a lot my first year? Yup. But I could tell as the year went on, my body got better at defending itself.
    As for the milk: you need to give it to your kids so their bodies can digest it (I’ve heard the theory that if you don’t get it, you develop lactose intolerance). Unless of course your child can’t tolerate it, like I couldn’t when I was a wee babe.
    Basically, talk to your doctor, give your kid plenty of healthy foods and exercise (physical, mental, emotional) and plenty of love, support and discipline, and your child will be just fine.

  6. Christine says:

    daycare or preschool or kindergarten. take your pick when you want your child to be sickk for the better part of a year. Most babies over 3 months old are up to the challenge of tolerating your most common viruses.

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