Care for you child when medicine has been recalled.
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Not sure what to do now that many children's liquid medications have been pulled from drugstore shelves? Pediatrician Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD, RealAge's children's health expert, has some ways to cope with bad colds, fevers and a red-alert allergy season.
Many moms and dads with sick kids are doing a little hand-wringing about giving up their trusty bottles of liquid Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl. As you likely know, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which makes some 43 liquid products for kids, and the U.S Food and Drug Administration have advised families to stop using the products, which disappeared off pharmacy shelves in a gigantic voluntary recall.

It looks to be lapses in meeting required quality standards. While tests by the FDA found the actual finished products were not contaminated, raw materials used to make some of the medications were. There were also instances of some products having too much of the active ingredient, while others were found to contain "tiny particles" that shouldn't be there. It's still being investigated and, yes, it's worrisome, but so far there are no reports of any child anywhere getting sick from the medications. Still, McNeil and the FDA are obviously taking the recall seriously, and so am I. I've told my parents to return or dispose of the meds immediately.

Here's the bigger issue, though. American parents—and with three kids, I'm one of you—often have a kind of fever phobia. If our children feel a little warm to the back of our hand, we reach for the Motrin or Tylenol. At the first sniffle or sneeze, we break out the Benadryl or Zyrtec. If we're honest, a lot of the time we medicate our kids for our comfort, to dial down the worry meter a notch. But it's usually not necessary. Often, a cold or fever will go away on its own.

Get Dr. Trachtenberg's 7 ways to deal with a sick child.
Are you worried about how to treat your child during the children's Tylenol recall? Here's what RealAge's pediatrician suggests—and does for her own family.

Treat Your Child, Not the Fever
If your child has a slight fever but seems happy and playful, skip the meds and let your kid's immune system do its job. My rule of thumb is this: If the fever is under 101 degrees and your child is acting okay, don't treat it. If the fever spikes and your gut tells you something is wrong, call your pediatrician. If you have a newborn with a fever, check with your doctor.

Use Generics
All the medications on the do-not-use list have safe generic equivalents that aren't affected by this recall. They'll do the job just fine if you need to treat a nasty cold or allergy attack. The generic version of Tylenol is acetaminophen; for Motrin, it's ibuprofen; for Zyrtec, it's cetirizine; and for Benadryl, diphenhydramine. Not sure which to get? Just check with the pharmacist or your doc to make sure the product relieves your child's symptoms.

Dispose of Recalled Meds Safely
You may be able to take the iffy liquids back to where you bought them. If not, don't throw the bottles into the kitchen or bathroom trash. Your kids or family pet could find and drink them. Also, don't flush meds down the toilet; they can seep into the water supply. Instead, add some coffee grounds, kitty litter or sawdust to the bottle of liquid, then seal it in a plastic bag before tossing it out. It's worth the couple of minutes it takes.

Go Natural
If your child has a stuffy nose, use saline nasal drops to loosen the mucus. Plug in the humidifier. Offer lots of liquids. Try honey for quieting coughs—studies show it's more effective than drugstore cough remedies, and kids like it. (However, never give honey to children under 12 months old, because it can cause infant botulism.)

Consider a Little TLC
My daughter had a headache last night, but instead of reaching for generic Motrin, I cuddled with her, put a cool compress on her head and found a quiet dark space for us to lie down together. I rubbed her temples and gave her some "me" time. (Isn't that what we all want anyway, when we don't feel well? Someone to say, "There, there. You'll be fine.") The headache went right away.

Never Give Your Child Aspirin
Not even baby aspirin, which is not for babies or any kids under 16. It can cause Reye's syndrome, a disease that attacks the brain and liver, and may be fatal.

Nip Allergy Attacks in the Bud
If your kids are allergic to half the great outdoors, make sure they wash their hands the minute they come in so they don't wipe allergens on their mouth or nose. Use an air conditioner instead of opening windows. Insist on that bath or shower before bedtime. And have long-haired kids sleep in a ponytail so they're not inhaling any allergic residue that might be on their hair.

McNeil is offering refunds or coupons for replacement products. The company has set up a hotline for parents (888-222-6036). You can also go to for a complete list of affected products.

What's your parenting style when it comes to a sick child? Share your comments below.

Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg—or Dr. Jen—is RealAge's pediatric expert and the author of The Smart Parent's Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents and Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children. Get more of her advice at

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