Thursday, October 11, 2007

Misguided war on drugs

Today, in a week when another handful of toys has been recalled for containing lead paint, cold medicines for infants under 2yo have been pulled off the drugstore shelves. Hmm...this bothers me. I've slept on the sofa with a severely congested, feverish 9-month-old on my chest, praying that he continues breathing through the night. And I've felt the rush of relief that comes when a 106-degree fever comes down 2 degrees after a dose of Tylenol. While I understand the argument that some parents overdo it, in the words of this article "poisoning their children," I feel that we parents should be allowed to make the decision about whether to give the child a decongestant or watch as he sits lethargically on the floor because he can't catch his breath.

Is this another case of the "save us from ourselves" epidemic that grips us these days? Ban McDonalds because my child is obese, don't put a goalie in the soccer net because it creates too much pressure, get the cold medicine off the shelves because someone might overdose their infant.

When did this country stop trusting parents to make decisions for their children? Probably around the same time we started hiring China to produce all our toys...hmmm, wonder which is worse: unknowingly, slowly, and steadily poisoning our babies via Thomas the Train, Elmo, and Dora toys that they play with every single day and night, or reading the directions on the medicine bottle and administering cold medicine on occasion to ease a child's discomfort, taking the chance that the medicine has an adverse side effect that will most likely wear off in a few hours? Interesting dilemma.

Or, let me pose this to indulge my inner conspiracy theorist: Is this a case of big pharmaceuticals trying to make a buck? I mean, if Tylenol Cold isn't available for $5 at your pharmacy, will AstraZeneca come up with a similar formulation that doctors then prescribe in mass quantities, at say $40 a bottle?

Consider this: My son has tested negative for allergies and asthma, though he has occasional seasonal-allergy-type runny nose and coughing bouts. I was advised NOT to put him on children's Benadryl because it could make him groggy. However -- and keep in mind, he has tested negative for all allergies and asthma -- his allergist has prescribed a daily dose of Nasonex nasal spray (side effects may include irritability, nosebleeds, headaches, etc.) AND a twice-daily dosage of Flovent, which is a steroid inhaler with side effects that include all of the above PLUS extreme aggression, mood swings, and a number of internal discomforts that a toddler would not be able to communicate. With my prescription coverage, each of these medications costs $40 a month...can't imagine what the non-insurance cost is.

So you tell me---otc Benadryl, at $6 a bottle, could probably take care of Hayden's sniffles, and ensure that he sleeps through the night when he has that annoying post-nasal cough. Sure it may make him drowsy during the day, but that may be a decision I, his mother, has to make: Do I let him suffer the drippy nose, cough, and headaches, or do I make him sleepy?

While he does take the Nasonex (it helps his runny nose, and doesn't seem to affect him adversely) my husband and I have decided not to put Hayden on the inhaler; he does not have asthma, and introducing him to a medication that has such adverse documented side effects as a preventive measure does not seem like a wise idea. But a doctor at a reputable children's hospital prescribed it. If I didn't have access to the internet, or have ways to research this medicine, I would probably trust the doctor, much like the mother of a 20-month-old who told me the other day that her son takes prescribed asthma and allergy medicines 21 times a day. Is that baby being poisoned any less than a child whose parents give him a dose of Tylenol for fever and a dose of Robitussin for cough over the course of 3 days, just to get him through a terrible cold?

This really bothers me. If you want to help our babies, take a stand on the products being sold in toy stores, or better yet, bring that business back into this country to create jobs and ensure standards. Don't spend time limiting parents' rights to ease their children's cold about misguided energy.

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