FDA Issues a Warning Against Homeopathic Remedies for Kids Just in Time for Cold & Flu Season

little girl taking medicine
iStock.com/Ritter75

As we fly through the final days of December, we enter a more high-risk time for infants and kids to get sick. Between playdates and school days, cold and flu germs run rampant during the wintertime. Although some parents have turned to homeopathic remedies in an attempt to use a more "natural" cure, the Food and Drug Administration recently issued a press release that might have them running back to the drugstore. The federal agency is cracking down on products labeled "homeopathic" that might be misleading in their curative abilities. 

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The statement, which was issued on December 18, was made after the FDA concluded that it needed to be more proactive in warning consumers about products that are labeled "homeopathic." It wants parents to be aware of those that make grand proclamations in curing everything from the common cold to cancer, saying:

"This proposed new approach would update the FDA's existing policy to better address situations where homeopathic treatments are being marketed for serious diseases and/or conditions but where the products have not been shown to offer clinical benefits. It also covers situations where products labeled as homeopathic contain potentially harmful ingredients or do not meet current good manufacturing practices."
This includes homeopathic teething tablets and gels, which are marketed toward parents who want a natural oral pain reliever for their infants. In a statement released in September of 2016, the FDA warned against the tablets, saying that they contain belladonna, "a toxic substance that has an unpredictable response in children under two years of age, after the products were associated with serious adverse events, including seizures and deaths, in infants and children." Earlier this year, Hyland's, a popular homeopathic brand, recalled its teething tablets after its products were linked to the deaths of 10 children.

Teething tablets
Hylands.com

Homeopathic remedies have been a medical practice since the 1700s and are often created using "plants, minerals, chemicals and human and animal excretions or secretions," says the FDA. And until recently, the market for these products was relatively small and not easily accessible. Now with the growing cultural trend favoring "wellness" and "natural" products, you can find homeopathic medicines in any CVS, Walgreens, or Duane Reade near your house. 

"In recent years, we've seen a large uptick in products labeled as homeopathic that are being marketed for a wide array of diseases and conditions, from the common cold to cancer," FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in a statement. "In many cases, people may be placing their trust and money in therapies that may bring little to no benefit in combating serious ailments, or worse -- that may cause significant and even irreparable harm because the products are poorly manufactured, or contain active ingredients that aren't adequately tested or disclosed to patients." Meaning that your best bet might be to get a prescription. 

The FDA will not be pulling homeopathic products from shelves, and has made a commitment of a 90-day waiting period before making any plans. But it should be noted for all parents as we enter the deep-winter season to be cautious before giving their kids a "natural" remedy, and the best answer might be to take your little one to the pediatrician. 

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