Is talc powder safe for children?

A friend recently told me about the dangers of infants inhaling talcum powder, especially baby powder. I wish I had not used it so liberally when my older two children were infants — my youngest is still six months old. Our entire family uses talc on the face. Does inhaling it cause breathing difficulties? — Jayalakshmi Srikanth, Chennai

Talcum powder is composed of very fine mineral powder which can cause breathing problems in children. It can also cause allergic reactions such as wheezing in children. Commonly, talcum powder is used after each nappy change to keep infants dry, with some parents dusting infants with powder brushes. This could result in the powder entering a child’s respiratory system. Avoid using baby talc powder totally.

Is it wrong to give my children aged eight and 11 years paracetamol tablets when they have fever? I am told that they can cause long term liver damage. In that case, what medication should I administer when they are suffering from cold, fever and headache? — Sreeja Bala, Chennai

Paracetamol is the safest medicine to control fever in children. It is widely acknowledged as safer than other drugs. Your paediatrician will prescribe the correct dosage depending on your child’s body weight and age. Paracetamol can be administered with a gap of four-six hours until fever subsides. Paracetamol is the safest pain medication for children.

I read that many dangerous viruses such as the West Nile fever, dengue and others are transmitted through mosquitoes. During summer my children play well after dusk and it is almost impossible to avoid mosquitoes. I don’t like using mosquito repellent devices as they contain harmful chemicals. Please advise.— Richa Singhania, Pune

There are many alternatives to chemical devices. You could use cloth mosquito nets. Wear long-sleeved clothes. Keep your surroundings clean and ensure that water doesn’t stagnate in and around your house. Dengue-causing mosquitoes breed in clean water as in potted plants. Follow these precautions even during daytime as the dengue mosquito bites during the day, especially below the knees unlike the malaria mosquito which stings at night.

My son enjoys drinking ice-cold water. Many people say this will damage his teeth. Is it true or is it just an old wives’ tale? — Rizwana Taslim, Mumbai

Ice-cold water could harm the enamel of teeth. It could also trigger illnesses such as tonsillitis or pharyngitis. Therefore drinking ice-cold water occasionally is alright but it’s best avoided. Ask your child to mix iced water with room temperature water.

(Dr. Prabha Punith is a practising paediatrician at the Little Steps Children’s Clinic, Bangalore)

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