Just a Teaspoon of Sugar: Are All Kids Medicines Loaded With Stuff That Could Make Them Sicker?

With winter coming on, it’s been hard to tell if my toddler’s constant cough was due to a perpetual cold or seasonal allergies. Our pediatrician suggested giving a teaspoon of  Childrens Zyrtec at night, and if it helped, keeping it up indefinitely. After all, mommy takes a Claritin every day, what could it hurt?

After a couple weeks of grape-flavored medicine, we noticed the cough wasn’t improving so we gave the Zyrtec a rest. And a part of me was actually happy that the medicine wasn’t helping and the problem was probably just a lingering cold. I didn’t want to give my son a teaspoon of artificial flavors and parabens every single day.


I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Alan Greene – renowned pediatrician and healthy child expert – for the second edition of my book. While I had him on the line, I inquired about any options for children’s allergy medications that weren’t loaded with unnecessary chemicals. Sadly, Greene said there was unfortunately nothing on the market and I’d have to wait until Sam could swallow a pill. Considering that I couldn’t swallow a pill until I was about 12, I didn’t see much hope for a safer alternative in the near future.

Dr. Greene agrees that there are huge problems with the way medicines are formulated and marketed to children. Why can’t they just mix the active ingredient with natural flavoring? Parents are left with three choices: treat all illnesses with homeopathic remedies (a nice idea, but sometimes you just need Western medicine), dose kids with conventional medicines loaded with artificial crap, or let them hack themselves to death.

As always, it’s a situation where we have to measure the harm versus good. If my kid needs cough medicine, I’m going to have to suck it up and go with the flow. I wouldn’t mind a teaspoon of sugar so much if it was at least natural sugar – not high fructose corn syrup mingled with parabens. I actually feel OK about letting him have a couple pieces of conventional candy on Halloween, but something about a dose of grape-flavored chemicals at night just doesn’t sit right with me.

I did just hear about this natural cough syrup called Zarbees, which I will be checking out. Any other suggestions?

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