Doctor, Doctor.

20130418_134407Children not unlike Wolverine (excited about the new X-Men film yet?) have absolutely wonderful immune systems. They can beat off just about any minor common childhood illness without so much as a by your leave! ‘What?‘ I hear you say! ‘I am at the doctors every other week with my child. They constantly have sniffles, a bad cough or high temperature.’ Yep, getting the sniffles is a part of childhood. In fact, so are coughs, colds, tummy-ache, rashes, and let us not forget the roaring temperatures. That’s the bad news. The good news is you don’t always have to go to the doctor!

Most common childhood ailments can be treated with paracetemol, ibuprofen, 7-Up and some rest. I have yet to come across a common childhood illness that doesn’t improve within a day or two spent on the couch watching television! Rashes e.g. flare up all the time on childrens’ skin, but it is only if they persist, or appear in tandem with more serious symptoms that you need to address it. When you do need to address it, your pharmacist should be your first port of call. Even chickenpox doesn’t necessarily need a doctor’s diagnosis – just itch/pain management and time a.k.a. an anti-histamine and some paracetemol. As for meningitis, you will know – the level of listlessness and extreme reaction to light will set alarm bells ringing even before you do the glass test.

Childhood illnesses was one of the first topics I studied in childcare. Something I learned back then was that children under two years of age should not need antibiotics. Full stop. Whilst working as a nanny, I never had to give antibiotics but when I started working in creches it felt like every second child in my care was on a prescription. And when I asked why they were on antibiotics, I honestly couldn’t count the number of times parents answered ‘oh, it’s for a cough they can’t shake’ or ‘they have a really bad cold’, or worse still ‘they have a bad cold that I don’t want to develop into an infection!’

I understand that parents who work (outside the home) simply can’t take time off whenever their child is sick, and as I said, sniffles and so on are commonplace in children. However, nearly all creches and childminders will happily accept a child with the sniffles as they know just how prevelant these are. The notion of dosing them with antibiotics so they get better sooner, or don’t end up with an infection, just boggles the mind.

Antibiotics when used incorrectly can hamper your child’s natural immune system and impair their ability to fight off even the mildest of head colds. In fact, the headlines are full of stories about the diminishing return of antibiotics on a national scale. A child who is prescribed antibiotics repeatedly can develop a gradual resistance and ends up going on stronger and stronger antibiotics until they lose all effectiveness. And after all this, they will still suffer from coughs, colds etc. Yes, I know that only doctors can prescribe antibiotics, but parents put extreme pressure on doctors to do so. Wrong but true.

The childhood illnesses we fear the most – measles, mumps, rubella etc – are all covered by the free immunisation schedule. I am delighted that we are soon to be offered free healthcare for under fives – any initiative that takes pressure off the early years of parenting gets a big thumbs up from me. However, I worry that this may encourage even more rushing to the doctor for every small gripe and groan which, whilst assuaging the fears of the parent, can prove unhealthy for their child.

There are, of course, serious symptoms which should best be brought to your doctor’s attention, and anything ending in ‘itis’ generally needs professional medical care. ‘If in doubt, check it out’ is a reasonable motto with this one caveat – if it is not something you would go to the doctor for yourself, try treating it at home for at least 48 hours first; not only will you save some money, you will (much more importantly) help your childs immune system to grow and develop!

Thanks for reading


I love feedback, please leave any thoughts and comments below.





7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. A Little Londoner
    May 08, 2014 @ 11:19:27

    I think the big thing here is that coughs,colds,headcolds are all generally viral. Therefore antibiotics will have no effect on them what so ever. Grant it, some viruses can go on to become bacterial, but initially antibiotics will do nothing for viruses.


  2. A Little Londoner
    May 08, 2014 @ 11:22:41

    I think the big thing here is that headcds,sniffly noses,coughs and colds are generally viruses. Antibiotics will not have any effect on a virus. Grant it,some viruses may become bacterial later,but initially antibiotics are useless when it comes to common colds & flu’s. As you said,repeated use of antibiotics will build up a resistance against the antibiotics….hence the problem with MRSA in hospitals around Ireland & the UK.


  3. ciwin22
    May 08, 2014 @ 15:05:30

    I couldn’t agree with you more Aisling, great, sensible, and practical post πŸ™‚


  4. Elizabeth MacDonnell
    May 08, 2014 @ 20:07:45

    Couldn’t agree more!! Was asked by Montesorri teacher how we had managed only 3 antibiotics between 4 kids in 7 yrs ( something I am hugely grateful for ) and I answered honestly its because I don’t take them to the doctor. I adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach and usually they fight it themselves. Great advise x


    • BabySteps
      May 08, 2014 @ 20:58:51

      Thanks a million. Yep always let my guys try and fight it off. So far have managed to avoid antibiotics, I am blessed to say. Long may it last. πŸ™‚


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