Not a week goes by that a concerned parent brings their child to see me for an ailment and the visit starts with “My mother says I should…” If personal experience with the specific illness eludes them, they resort to the next resource: treatments they learned from grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. It certainly takes the proverbial village to raise our children! However, over time science has taught us there are many “Old Wives Tales” that do not work. Be aware, nothing replaces TLC of parents and family! That said here are a few of the more common myths we hold onto.
Butter that burn
Butter and heat have their place in the home, but together only in the kitchen. Even after the heat source has been removed from the burn, the skin continues to maintain local heat at the site of the wound. This promotes ongoing damage to the injured site. Applying cool (not cold) water for 15-20 minutes helps stop the heat penetration. You can then apply aloe vera for comfort. Burns that blister should not be opened. Rather, a clean dressing should be applied to protect the wound while healing. Location and size of the burn dictate when you should seek medical care. If you have concern about whether or not to seek medical attention, go! Better to be told not to fret rather than “we needed to see that sooner”.
Ice that nosebleed
Ice alone applied to the backward tilted, bleeding nose may not be enough to stop the flow. It may even cause blood to go down the back of the throat causing irritation and vomiting. Rather, lean the head forward slightly and gently pinch the soft part of the nostrils just below the bony part. Do this for about 5 minutes while breathing through the open mouth. Once the bleeding has stopped an ice pack may certainly come in handy to keep swelling controlled if injury caused the bleed.
The Green Goblin strikes again
Nothing creates greater fear in the hearts of parents and daycares than the presence of the Green Goblin: green nasal discharge. Many visits are made to seek antibiotics for the treatment of “the sinus infection”. Science has looked at this stuff under the microscope and determined it is, more often than not, caused by a virus. Important fact here: there are countless varieties of virus that cause rhinorrhea, aka the Green Goblin, and they mutate to make sure they live long and prosper. Again, being a virus, antibiotics do not kill them. Rinse the nose (many times a day) with a saline solution (salt water spray or drops) and flush or blow out the slime via the nose. This is the best approach. Keep your child well hydrated – enough fluids to make them go to the bathroom several times a day. It never works as fast as your patience and good nature require. However, if fever and worsening symptoms appear after several days, check things out with your pediatrician. Over time, secondary infections can occur.
These are just a few of the entries in the Book of Wives Tales. Space does not permit more. There are also many tried and true home remedies that warrant discussion. Perhaps we can discuss those next time!