The 7 kids' Health Myths
Every Mom Should Ignore
When it comes to colds, flu, stomach bugs, and ear infections,
everyone has a theory. Some have been passed down through generations,
or are based on outdated science. A few just seem like common
sense. But whatever their origin, many just aren't true. The facts
behind these myths:
Feed a cold, starve a fever
The truth: This centuries-old saying, popularized by Mark
Twain, simply isn't so. All sick kids (and adults) -- whether
they've got a cold, fever, or both -- need nutrients and liquids
to get better, says Leigh Ann Greavu, a dietitian in St. Paul,
Minnesota. If your child doesn't feel like eating solids, then
chicken noodle soup, juice, and even ice cream are good alternatives.
Greenish mucus means your child has something worse than a
The truth: Not usually. While clear mucus is most common,
green or yellow can also just be symptoms of a cold. However,
discolored mucus plus a persistent high fever, decreased appetite,
cough, or severe nasal congestion may be signs of a bacterial
infection, which -- unlike a cold -- could require antibiotics.
If you notice your child often has green or yellow mucus, there
may be an underlying problem (enlarged adenoids, for instance)
that's causing recurring bacterial infections. In that case, let
your pediatrician be your sleuth. (Tips for breaking the cycle
of cold and flu germs. )
Colds and flu are most contagious before symptoms appear
The truth: They spread most easily when symptoms are at
their worst. That's because these infections are commonly passed
through coughed-up or sneezed-out droplets containing the virus,
or via hand-to-hand contact. While the likelihood of catching
(or passing) something peaks when kids are most miserable, the
risk persists as long as the drip does. So even if your kid's
almost over it, give the other moms in your playgroup a heads
up; they may decide to take a rain check.
It's best not to treat mild fevers
The truth: It depends on how your child's feeling. Fevers
do help fight infections by stimulating the immune system and
killing bacteria and viruses that can't survive at higher-than-normal
temperatures. But that's no reason to let your child be miserable.
Try to strike a balance between keeping him comfortable and letting
his body do its job, says Daniel Levy, M.D., clinical assistant
professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of
Medicine in Baltimore. If he has a mild fever but seems especially
cranky, lethargic, or in pain, giving him the right dose of acetaminophen
or ibuprofen will likely make him feel (and sleep) better. If
he's reasonably happy and energetic even though his temperature
is 102 degrees, keeping an eye on him may be enough (just make
sure he's well hydrated). The exception: Any fever in an infant
under 6 months merits a call to the doc at once.
The B.R.A.T. diet is best for diarrhea
The truth: A regimen of bananas, rice, applesauce, and
toast used to be the standard prescription for thickening watery
stools. While they work great, a plate full of rice, with banana
for dessert, isn't always appealing to a sick kid. "Your
child will feel better faster if you feed him what he'll actually
eat," says Andrea McCoy, M.D., an associate professor of
pediatrics at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Just avoid spicy and greasy foods and fruit juice.)
Don't kiss your baby if you have a cold
The truth: A peck on the lips probably won't hurt, says
Neil Schachter, M.D., author of "The Good Doctor's Guide
to Colds & Flu. " Unlike a sneeze or a cough, which bring
forth viral-rich fluids from your airways, the saliva hanging
out in your mouth harbors very little cold virus -- so it's surprisingly
hard to pass the illness through kissing. The best way to keep
your baby from catching your cold: Wash your hands often.
Colds cause ear infections
The truth: It does seem that way, but all colds are caused
by viruses, while 90 percent of ear infections are caused by bacteria.
So, why does your child seem to get an ear infection every time
he has a cold? "Colds create mucus and fluid buildup in the
ear tubes -- a perfect environment for ear infection -- causing
bacteria to grow," says Ari Brown, M.D., coauthor of "Toddler
411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Toddler."