Every parent always has something to say when it comes to their child’s health. Some are facts, but most are mere theories and personal beliefs handed down through generations, which we now call “myths”. It is so strange how myths have become deeply rooted, and influenced one’s disposition about certain health issues when most of it weren’t even found to be true.
Let us look into some of these well-known myths about childhood illnesses and learn the truth behind them.
#1 Limit water intake to stop watery diarrhea
This is a deadly myth because this can literally kill the child. In my practice, I have had many pediatric patients admitted in the hospital for severe dehydration. Sometimes, the child is already lethargic, or even worse-comatose. And every time I asked the mother why rehydration was not given at home, most answered what they think was right. They thought withholding water from the child would stop the diarrhea with a simple reasoning that, if the child doesn’t take in water, he doesn’t have water anymore to expel from the body, and therefore the watery diarrhea should stop. But this is not true, even if it may seem like common sense.
There are many pathologic causes of diarrhea. It can be caused by infectious agents like bacteria, viruses or parasites that alter the intestinal lining milieu, allowing body water to flush back to the intestines. Or it could be that, water from the body is osmotically driven into the intestine by undigested foods. Whatever the cause, only the doctor can say. The most important thing to do though, is to keep the child hydrated by giving oral rehydrating solutions. It is imperative to replace the amount of water loss by the child because this will lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, resulting to seizures, shock, and death.
#2 It is normal for the infant to get fever and oftentimes diarrhea, as soon as he starts to grow teeth.
Some parents don’t seem concerned when their child gets fever and mild diarrhea at the time when their child is starting to grow teeth. For them, this is a natural phenomenon that comes along with teething which will resolve spontaneously. It should be understood however, that when the child starts to grow teeth, he has tendency to put anything into his mouth, introducing viruses and bacteria. When these are swallowed, they cause infection to the gastrointestinal tract causing mild diarrhea and fever. But since the most common offending organisms are viruses, the condition will usually resolve without treatment. Viral infection is self-limiting that will usually resolve after 7-10 days.
#3 Children are more likely to transmit colds and flu before the symptoms appear.
Viruses that cause colds and flu are passed through oral or nasal droplets that are coughed-up or sneezed-out. Thus, they spread most readily when symptoms of coughing and sneezing are at their worst.
#4 Having chickenpox confers a lifetime immunity to the virus that causes it.
If the child has chickenpox, the virus called Varicella zoster develops a latent infection in his sensory neurons. This virus could get reactivated usually at an adult age. If reactivated, shingles develops. Although shingles is rare in children, immunocompromised children are still susceptible to it.
#5 Exposure to measles does not warrant isolation.
Measles is an extremely contagious viral infection characterized by high grade fever and a macular pinkish rash that starts in the head, spreads downward, and fades in the same manner. In order to prevent spread of measles, patients should be isolated from the 7th day after exposure until 5 days after the rash appears.
#6 It is best to treat mild fevers right away
Sometimes, it is best not to treat mild fevers right away especially if the child is reasonably happy and energetic. Fevers help fight infections by killing viruses and bacteria that can not survive higher than normal body temperatures. Fevers also stimulate the body’s immune system eliminating infectious organisms which have specialized forms of resistance. Hence, one may forego giving Acetaminophen to a feverish but active child, except if the family has a strong history of benign febrile seizure. But if the child is miserable and weak even at low grade fever, it is thus far better to treat it right away.
There are countless of myths that revolve around us. Myths vary from different places and cultures. Some are just misinterpretations of science, or a product of one’s creative imagination. Perhaps, others are still based on outdated science. But wherever they come from and how sensible they might sound, lots of them just aren’t true.