Flu season can be particularly frightening to parents of small children. With close contact at school, time on the playground, and more, germs are easily spread between little ones. Painful symptoms often make parents willing to try anything to make their children feel better. However, the FDA warns against homeopathic flu remedies for kids due to misleading claims. In a time when "natural" options are appealing, experts worry about their effectiveness.
In a statement issued on Dec. 18, the Food and Drug Administration explained that it would be more proactive in warning the public about products labeled "homeopathic," according to NPR. In many cases, these products claim to cure serious illnesses without factual evidence of their effectiveness. The FDA statement reads:
This proposed new approach would update the FDA's existing policy to better address situations where homeopathic treatments are being marketed for serious diseases and/or conditions but where the products have not been shown to offer clinical benefits. It also covers situations where products labeled as homeopathic contain potentially harmful ingredients or do not meet current good manufacturing practices.
The new warnings would address products like homeopathic teething medications, which cater to parents who look to relieve pain naturally. In an April statement, the FDA said homeopathic teething products contain belladonna, which has been found to have "an unpredictable response in children under two years of age, after the products were associated with serious adverse events, including seizures and deaths, in infants and children."
The National Capital Poison Center website states that some parents choose homeopathic remedies out of fear of medicating children. It also details situations in which parents go the "natural" route:
Up to 10 percent of children are given homeopathic remedies, especially for ear, nose and throat problems (ear infections, teething pain) and for respiratory conditions.
While homeopathic products have long been available, Poison Control explains that they have only recently started appearing on the shelves of box stores like CVS and Walgreens. The ready availability has led more parents to seek alternative options for treating their children. FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb reiterated this information in the FDA statement saying:
In recent years, we've seen a large uptick in products labeled as homeopathic that are being marketed for a wide array of diseases and conditions, from the common cold to cancer.
He goes on to explain that these products could not only be ineffective, but also dangerous:
In many cases, people may be placing their trust and money in therapies that may bring little to no benefit in combating serious ailments, or worse — that may cause significant and even irreparable harm because the products are poorly manufactured, or contain active ingredients that aren't adequately tested or disclosed to patients.
The flu in particular can be dangerous for children due to the high fevers and respiratory issues that accompany it. The CDC reported that thousands of children are hospitalized every year for the flu. Choosing the best treatment for your child can be a complex decision with contributing factors such as child's age and severity of symptoms, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Even if homeopathic remedies are used alongside conventional medicine, parents should always consult a medical professional first.
Gottlieb explained to NPR that the FDA is not looking to take choices away from consumers, but to help them be more informed about what they are using:
We respect that some individuals want to use alternative treatments, but the FDA has a responsibility to protect the public from products that may not deliver any benefit and have the potential to cause harm.
Additionally, the FDA will not be removing homeopathic products from the shelves, but changing the ways in which they are labeled. No matter what type of treatment you choose for your children, knowing more about the impacts that your choices have benefits everyone.
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