Just a Teaspoon of Sugar



With winter coming on, it’s been hard to tell if my toddler’s constant cough was due to a perpetual cold or seasonal allergies. Our pediatrician suggested giving a teaspoon of Children’s Zyrtec at night, and if it helped, keeping it up indefinitely. After all, mommy takes a Claritin every day, what could it hurt?

After a couple weeks of grape-flavored medicine, we noticed the cough wasn’t improving so we gave the Zyrtec a rest. And a part of me was actually happy that the medicine wasn’t helping and the problem was probably just a lingering cold. I didn’t want to give my son a teaspoon of artificial flavors and parabens every single day.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Alan Greene — renowned pediatrician and healthy child expert — for the second edition of my book, Spit That Out! The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt. While I had him on the line, I inquired about any options for children’s allergy medications that weren’t loaded with unnecessary chemicals. Sadly, Greene said there was nothing on the market and I’d have to wait until Sam could swallow a pill. Considering that I couldn’t swallow a pill until I was about 12, I didn’t see much hope for a safer alternative in the near future.

I wouldn’t mind a teaspoon of sugar so much if it was at least natural sugar — not high fructose corn syrup mingled with parabens.

Dr. Greene agrees that there are huge problems with the way medicines are formulated and marketed to children. Why can’t they just mix the active ingredients with natural flavoring? Parents are left with three choices: treat all illnesses with homeopathic remedies (a nice idea, but sometimes you just need Western medicine), dose kids with conventional medicines loaded with artificial crap, or let them hack themselves to death.

As always, it’s a situation where we have to measure the harm versus good. If my kid needs cough medicine, I’m going to have to suck it up and go with the flow. I wouldn’t mind a teaspoon of sugar so much if it was at least natural sugar —  not high fructose corn syrup mingled with parabens. I actually feel okay about letting him have a couple pieces of conventional candy on Halloween, but something about a dose of grape-flavored chemicals at night just doesn’t sit right with me.

For this season’s minor ailments, I’ve been using the homeopathic remedies available at Whole Foods. The natural stuff tastes so good, my son begs for “more medicine.” But if a fever spikes, we may just have to swallow some Tylenol. In the meantime at least we can remain a Flintstone vitamin-free home.

Paige Wolf is a Philadelphia mom and author of Spit That Out! The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt. This post is adapted from her blog, Spit That Out!

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