Nanny and Au Pair Health Care Series

Unless recommended by a physician no over-the-counter (OTC) cold preparations are suitable for a child under four-years-old.

The side-effects cited in this article are representative only and not nearly a complete list of all possible problems medications can pose for children.

Parents may give certain herbs to children to prevent or lessen the symptoms of a cold. Herbs are used because of the inaccurate belief that they are all natural and cannot hurt, and might help, children.

Echinacea: The most popular herb is Echinacea. According to the German government, only one of the four species of Echinacea is useful as a cold preventative. That form is not even available in the United States. Some children, especially those who are allergic to ragweed, may be allergic to Echinacea. The alcohol-based tincture form of Echinacea can be irritating to mucus membranes.

Vitamin C: Some people use large doses of Vitamin C to prevent or to treat a cold. Large doses of Vitamin C can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and heartburn.

Honey: Honey is popularly used to relieve sore throat, or to mix with lemon to relieve colds. Honey should not be given to any child under one-year-old because of the risk of infant botulism.

Iron: Iron-containing vitamins are a threat to children and all vitamins should be kept out of the reach of children. Doctors may prescribe iron for anemia, but only give a child iron with a pediatrician’s advice.

Aspirin: Headaches, sore throats, and other pain should be treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but never aspirin. Aspirin should not be give to anyone under 19-years-old. Aspirin is to be avoided because it is a salicylate (see below) that can react with a virus that can cause the dangerous Reyes Syndrome. Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen in forms designed for pediatric use, rather than smaller doses of adult formulations.

Salicylate: The adult formulation of Pepto Bismol, Kaopectate, and willow bark are also salicylate-containing compounds and must be avoided by infants, children, and teenagers.

Antibiotics: Do not insist on antibiotics for a virus. Antibiotics do not cure or treat a virus, only bacterial infections.

How to Treat Common Childhood Ailments:

Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea: Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea are all potentially dangerous conditions that may lead to dehydration. Pediatric electrolyte replacement drinks are appropriate. Diluting adult electrolyte replacement drinks will give the patient a drink that is too acidic for a child.

Teething: There are many effective strategies to relieve the discomfort of teething but adult Anbesol and liquor may burn the gums and should be avoided. Cold gel pacifiers are a better choice.

Intestinal gas and heartburn: Intestinal gas and heartburn are treatable with a large variety of safe products. Use those made for the age of the child. Too much antacid can cause constipation, diarrhea, or stomach cramps. Over dosage of acid blockers can inhibit digestion. Track the diet of children with stomach or digestive discomfort for a few days to check if there is a sensitivity to some food.

Among the most effective methods to prevent the spread of illness is careful and frequent hand washing. Plain soap and water are all that is necessary.

Do you use homeopathic remedies when treating sick children?


  1. What scares me about homeopathic treatments is that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate the industry. Claiming that a treatment is natural does not make it safe. Poisonous mushrooms are natural but you cannot eat them. Many people are confused thinking that just because an herb or treatment is natural it is better than medicine. Natural does not automatically mean it is safe.Career Nanny, Idaho

  2. I absolutely do not use homeopathic treatments with the children that I care for. First of all, that would be the parents’ decision. Secondly, I agree with the nanny from Idaho above that it is nearly impossible to know how homeopathic rememdies are made. What strength of the herb is being used is really hard to know when the industry is not regulated.For example, I personally take fish oil capsules. But, I don’t really know how pure one brand is from another. I’m not too worried for a fish oil capsule for myself, but I need to be certain the pills are mercury free. Do most adults look for mercury free fish oil capsules? Probably not. When you give children vitamins and meds you really need to have a pediatrician’s knowledge and advice. They are not little adults. Other than a basic children’s vitamin or children’s tylenol just call you pediatricain before treating a child.Debra P., Career Nanny, Austin, Texas

  3. Thank you for such great info in this newsletter, treating nannies as intelligent professionals as most are. I have the trouble with iron. The children I care for are vegetarians so the mother gives them vitamins with iron. Mistake right?

  4. Re: vegitarian children talk to pediatrician and nutritionist.

  5. Glenda from Oakland here and just wanted to mention that I strongly diapprove of parents and nannies that get pulled into the marketing hype of homeopathic treatments. Sometimes sales people say things like certain herbs will cure an ailment that isn’t curable!! Herbs do act as medicine and can be dangerous. I really agree with the article. Beware of the term “natural” since many natural ingredients are dangerous. I like the idea that poisonous mushrooms are natural but dangerous. Natural herbs can be dangerous and are medicines. Us nannies aren’t parents or doctors so we must not use homeopathic treatments with the children without professional medical advice.

  6. Friends constantly tell me what to take and what to do from systemic health issues I suffer from. I think it’s ok to recommend vitamins and minerals that might help but before relying on herbs you have got to talk to your doctor first. Not that herbs are always bad. Not at all. And doctors may even agree and recommend herbs. Just please always ask the doctor because we cannot rely on companies that sell herbs to warn us about negative interactions and so forth.Melinda, T. Rhode Island

  7. The whole teething experience has been a nightmare with the child I babysit. She won’t chew on the cold gel pacifiers mentioned in the article above. As much as I don’t want to over medicate the child I do not see why the parents won’t allow me to use CHILDREN’S teething medicine on her gums occasionally. A little might be helpful. Even if we used it just once a day it might make the baby feel better and me less frustrated.Sitter from TN

  8. After spending an hour and a half waiting for the doctor to see my charge today you bet I’m mad I didn’t get a prescription for antibiotics!! The doctor said go home take ibuprophen?!!! The child has not taken antibiotics in over two years! I’m really peeved!

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