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The dangers of giving supplements to children

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More than 50 percent of children are taking some form of supplement, but very few parents are aware the supplement industry is completely unregulated -- which could put their kids' health at risk.

Sarah Erush, pharmacy clinical manager at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, spoke with PIX11 News Tuesday about the most commonly used supplements for children and how to be as safe as possible when giving children supplements.

For example, kids who have allergies or are taking certain medications can suffer dangerous reactions from herbal concoctions that contain substances not listed on the label, so this is incredibly important.

Five supplements commonly give to children:

  1. Vitamin D: Because of the increased use of sunblock, children aren't getting as much sun naturally.
  2. Omega 3’s (Fish Oil): This supplement is good for growing brains and nervous systems, so is often supplemented with that in mind.
  3. Melatonin: This supplement is thought to help normalize sleep cycles, so it's often used in children who have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.
  4. Multi-Vitamin/Vitamin C: These are helpful in boosting the immune system and in supplementing when finicky eaters aren't getting enough vitamins from their food.
  5. Probiotics: These are “good bacteria” and are used in children with digestive disorders or to promote good bowel regimens.

But though they can have health benefits, dietary supplements are essentially an unregulated industry, and as such, the quality of supplements available can be of serious concern. Many do not contain what the label states, or are contaminated with unknown substances or prescription medications.

Tips when considering supplements for your children:

Always check with your pediatrician first
Does your child really need a supplement? For many issues, like finicky eater or problem sleepers, there are better options to try first

Obtain a quality product
Remember that obtaining a quality product is most important, because without that a product cannot be considered safe nor will it likely work.

  • Third party certifiers -- The most reliable and easiest to identify is the United States Pharmacopeia or USP -- this seal guarantees what is on the label is what is in the bottle in terms of both quality and quantity
  • Independent labs -- ConsumerLab.com or LabDoor -- two commercial labs that do reviews on products and people can get information on products.

Ask about interactions
If your child has a chronic illness or takes other medications, make sure your pediatrician and pharmacist are aware and can check for any interactions with the chosen supplement

Be aware of allergies
If your child has any allergies, a quality supplements is even more important to avoid any allergic reactions occurring from unknown ingredients in the supplement

Know the right dose
Let your pharmacist or pediatrician assist you with the correct dose of supplement, as children are not “little adults” and as they grow, their requirements and how their bodies handle medications changes, and so must the dose of the supplement.

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