I was recently invited to a seminar on child health sponsored by Nurofen, Bonjela and Karvol. The two speakers were Sarah Jarvis, a GP, and Dawn Kelly, a health visitor.
The speakers were very pro-(specifically) Nurofen in their leanings â€“ understandable since it was a Nurofen sponsored event â€“ which does make it difficult to know how much stock to put in their recommendations, so where possible, I have found independent evidence to support or refute their statements.
Following are the notes that I took from Dr Jarvis’ talk, and after them in italics are my thoughts on each subject. Remember as always that I am not a doctor and mine is not medical advice, just me sharing what has worked in our own home as we aim for pharmaceutical-free parenting and the knowledge I have picked up from my practice and learning of natural, original therapies.
– Babies should be expected to have 12 â€“ 15 upper respiratory tract infections in their first year. This is due to a number of causes, such as teething, ear aches, coughs and colds, and post immunisation fevers. This is true. I have read it on the WHO website but can for the life of me not find the reference now. The best advice for dealing with upper respiratory tract infections is to breastfeed. It helps reduce the incidence of ear infections, can be used as a decongestant for the nose and sucking helps relieve pain from teething, amongst all the other health benefits. Can’t offer much advice on immunisations, but breastfeeding will help replenish and strengthen the immune system. If you’re formula feeding, make sure your baby has plenty of liquids to keep them hydrated post immunisation.
There are plenty of natural remedies to help too. Belladonna (among others) for fever and teething , chamomila and, pulsatilla for teething, and so on. Unfortunately Dr Jarvis expressly stated that homoeopathy doesn’t work â€“ but forgot to tell my daughter who responds fantastically to it (possibly since she has no pharmaceuticals in her system?).
– Ibuprofen is effective from about 3 months, works in 15 minutes and lasts up to about 8 hours with a minimum of at least four hours between doses. (In contrast, paracetamol works for about 6 hours per dosage and can be administered every 4 â€“ 6 hours)
The NICE guidelines state that Ibuprofen has â€œthe fewest side effects and has been in clinical use for a long time. If it doesn’t work, it is reasonable to use another from the propionic acid group.â€
A study of paracetamol and ibuprofen on fevers in children found that either ibuprofen alone, or ibuprofen and paracetamol together, both lowered fever quicker in young children who were unwell with fever, than using paracetamol alone. If ibuprofen is known to be better and work faster, it concerns and confuses me that Calpol is still the best seller!
– She also said that paracetamol and ibuprofen do not necessarily shorten an illness, nor do they make it longer. Having a fever may not actually bother your child, so if they do not seem bothered by it, don’t be bothered about it either â€“ just keep an eye on it. If your child is bothered, give paracetamol or Ibuprofen, which works faster and for longer.
Agreed â€“ they are not healers, they just help with pain or inflammation. Also agree regarding the temperature. Most parents only take a child’s temperature when they are ill. It’s really important to find out your child’s core temperature when they are healthy as not everyone has a core temperature of 37.4 â€“ that is just a normal average. So a child with a core temperature of 36 degrees might be a lot sicker at 38 degrees than one who has a normal core temperature of 38 degrees. Knowing their healthy temperature helps determine how ill they really are and at what point you should start worrying.
– I was very interested in her comment about febrile convulsions: she said that although 1/3rd of children will suffer febrile convulsions, neither paracetamol or ibuprofen actually works for these. I found this particularly interesting as the post I wrote about Calpol and why it should be avoided illicited a few responses from parents saying that when faced with FC they would rather use Calpol than nothing. The NICE guidance concurs, however. Neither paracetamol or ibuprofen helps febrile convulsions and should not be used as a preventative. Unfortunately they don’t give any info on what should.
– Dr Jarvis mentioned something else new to me, which was that the old practice of cooling a child with a flannel is no longer recommended as it cools the outside temperature, but not the inside temperature, causing a false sense of security about the status of the temperature. Again, the NICE guidance does say this, and says that either ibuprofen or paracetamol can be used to reduce the fever.
– My final nugget quoted from Dr Jarvis is that despite recent newspaper reports, paracetamol does not cause asthma. If she’s right, paracetamol might not â€“ but the additives in Calpol, the liquid paracetamol used for children that are known to cause asthma, rashes and other reactions do.
I don’t know about you, but I find the conflicting information and advice quite alarming and wonder how any of us have survived this long when evidence and contra-evidence and new evidence and refuted evidence flood our lives all the time! I think the truth about evidence is that it is highly subjective and dependent on who paid for it.
The study in the medical journal the Lancet, for example, which stated that ‘high’ paracetamol use (i.e. once per month) in infancy increased the risk of asthma by the time they are 6 â€“ 7 year olds by 3.23 times is completely contrary to the information on the NHS website saying that it does NOT cause asthma, so who do we believe?
Well, in my home we use chamomile, Ashton and Parsons, Rescue Remedy, Belladona, Lavender, Pulsatilla and high doses of vitamin C, if all else fails we use raw, crushed paracetamol in water. (I have bought and tried Nurofen for Children since this event, and suffice for now to say that I would use it over Calpol, but more on that another day.)
And so far so good. We’re all healthy, my daughter has developed super fast and despite claims that ‘evidence shows that natural doesn’t work’, the evidence in our house, as paid for by us, shows that it does.