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Colds and flu

04 March 2019

Many US parents are wrong about what prevents colds in kids

A new survey shows that many US parents take prevention measures against their kids catching a cold that have little basis in science.

No parent wants to see their child catch a cold, but some take prevention measures that have little basis in science, a new survey shows.

For example, 51% of parents said they give their child an over-the-counter vitamin or supplement to prevent colds, even though there's no evidence they work.

Seventy-one percent of parents said they used "folklore" advice, such as not letting children go outside with wet hair, or encouraging them to spend more time indoors.

The latest C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan did find that 99% of parents use proven personal hygiene methods to protect their children from colds.

These include encouraging frequent hand-washing, teaching youngsters not to put their hands near their mouth or nose, and discouraging them from sharing utensils or drinks with others.

Other effective cold prevention methods used by parents include: keeping children away from people who are sick (87%); asking relatives who have colds not to hug or kiss their child (64%), and canceling a play date or activity if other children attending are ill (60%).

About 31% of parents keep their children away from playgrounds during the cold season, according to the poll.

The positive and the negative

It also found that 84% of parents sanitise their child's surrounding and items, such as frequently washing household surfaces and toys.

"The positive news is that the majority of parents do follow evidence-based recommendations to avoid catching or spreading the common cold and other illnesses," said poll co-director and paediatrician Dr Gary Freed.

"However, many parents are also using supplements and vitamins not proven to be effective in preventing colds and that are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration," Freed said in a University of Michigan news release.

"These are products that may be heavily advertised and commonly used, but none have been independently shown to have any definitive effect on cold prevention," he noted.

School-age children have an average of three to six colds a year.

"When children are sick with a cold, it affects the whole family," Freed said. "Colds can lead to lack of sleep, being uncomfortable and missing school and other obligations. All parents want to keep families as healthy as possible."

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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