Children's Tylenol

  1. Another recall for children's Tylenol

    Talk about déjà vu all over again: Infant Tylenol is being recalled just months after being put back onto the market after the last recall.

    This is starting to feel like Groundhog's Day.

    Previous Tylenol recalls have been due to meds contaminated with bacteria and "tiny particles" and because they were made in nasty substandard factories crawling with filth.

    The latest recall is a little different. It's not because of a specific problem with the drug itself, but the design of the new bottle. Apparently, it's easy to accidentally push the protective cover into the medicine.

    But as far as I'm concerned, any excuse to get this stuff off the market is a good one -- because if there's any med as overused as Tylenol, even among kids, I can't think of it.

    Just as I can't think of any condition as over-treated as fever.

    Sure, it's scary to watch the numbers on the thermometer rise, especially when it's your child or grandchild. But fever is actually the body's natural defense against infection. Eliminating the fever also eliminates that defense.

    That's why there's more to handling a fever than simply swallowing meds any time the temperature hits a certain number.

    For babies in the first weeks and months, call your doctor anytime the thermometer reaches 101 (and take your baby to the ER if you can't reach the doctor).

    But after those first delicate months, fever care is as much about watching the kid as it is watching the thermometer. A child with a 101 fever who is tired and sickly is more of a concern than one with a 101 fever who's as playful as ever.

    If the fever does get too high, then the goal isn't to bring the child's temperature back down to the textbook 98.6 degrees. It's getting the fever down to a level where the child is more comfortable, but still high enough to let the body fight off any microscopic invaders.

    Dr. Mark Stengler, a naturopath who practices out of California, suggests one alternative to meds that can help do exactly that: the homeopathic remedy ferrum phosphoricum.

    Along with fever, Dr. Stengler says ferrum phos can help kids with sore throats, tonsillitis and earaches. It can even be crushed and used in minor cuts and nosebleeds -- and as is almost always the case with homeopathic remedies, there's virtually no risk of side effects.

    Can't say that about Tylenol.

    Have kids or grandkids? I'm not done with children's health yet -- keep reading for the latest on teens and sleep.

  2. Kids in the crossfire

    If you think adult meds are bad, you should see what they're trying to force on your children and grandchildren.

    Some of the nation's most common over-the-counter children's drugs – meds you might find in any home with a kid – have been recalled for problems ranging from contamination to quality.

    All told, Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Pharmaceuticals pulled some 40 meds, including Children's Tylenol, Children's Motrin and Children's Benadryl. In many homes with children, that's half the medicine chest!

    In a 17-page report, the Food and Drug Administration detailed some of the problems with these dirty drugs. It's a frightening list:

    • "Tiny particles" in the medicine, including bits of metal;
    • Bacterial contamination;
    • Security lapses at the Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, plant where the drugs are made;
    • Inadequate training; and
    • No written procedures to ensure "the identity, strength, quality, and purity" of the meds.

    It might have been easier to simply list what wasn't wrong!

    In one of the most bizarre public statements in the history of corporate America, the company actually agreed with many of the FDA's accusations.

    "The quality issues that the FDA has observed, many of which we had recently identified in our own quality reviews and communicated to the FDA, are unacceptable to us," the company said.

    Say what?

    That's a little like a bank robber who, on getting caught, says he just noticed he had been stealing and found it to be unacceptable. In fact, he was just about to turn himself in.

    Of course, they had to take a different approach since they can't claim they had no idea. The FDA says the company received at least 46 complaints from consumers who said they found particles in their children's meds… and did nothing.

    But there's a positive side to this crisis, because it's a chance for parents to look at the alternatives. Like adults, many kids are often taking drugs they don't need – especially these over-the-counter remedies. Many parents reach for the Tylenol or Motrin any time they spot a fever in their child, but these days even mainstream docs will tell you that it's the wrong approach – especially for non-threatening low-grade fevers with no other symptoms.

    Fevers can be caused by any number of factors, and aren't an automatic sign of illness. Many fevers are of no concern, especially if your child is acting normally.

    And in some cases, the fever is the body's response to invading bacteria and viruses, many of which can be wiped out by the internal temperature change. Drop the fever, though, and you can give those microscopic invaders a chance to regroup and multiply.

    As always, talk to your pediatrician before you start or stop any medicine – but in most cases, you'll do better with home remedies and a little common sense than you would with any of these meds.

    Especially the ones they're telling you to throw in the trash.

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