You’re about to bring home this brand-new baby and your mind is bursting with questions like – ‘what have we done?’, ‘what were we thinking?’ and ‘now what?’
Today I’ll tackle an easier question. What Should You Have in Your Medicine Cabinet?
The answer is not much. A newborn arrives with a carbon copy of his/her mother’s antibodies to common infections, which lasts at least 6 months or longer if breast fed. However, they can still pick up infections, especially from older siblings, playdates etc. The good news is that each time they get a virus they make their own antibodies, which boosts their immune systems and protects them in the future.
So, what do you need to have on hand?
Paracetamol, most common brand name Panadol. Good for pain and fever in babies over 1 month old. The dose is on the bottle, usually related to weight. if you don’t know the current weight, use the age scale. It can be given 4-6 hourly, not more than 4 times in 24 hours.
Ibuprofen, most common brand name Nurofen. Also good for pain and fever, but not for babies less than 3 months. It’s an anti-inflammatory and so can be a bit hard on the gut. Best with food. 6-8 hourly, no more than 3 times in 24 hours.
You can alternate paracetamol and ibuprofen and occasionally give them at the same time, in case of stubborn fever and pain. You should never give aspirin to young children.
It’s OK to give babies paracetamol after a vaccination (first one is at 6-8 weeks), as needed, for fever and irritability. These medications can bring down fever and help with pain but they don’t treat the cause. If a baby up to the age of 6-8 weeks has a fever, unrelated to vaccination, then you need to seek medical advice to discover what’s causing it, rather than treating the temperature symptomatically with paracetamol.
Also, if you are needing to give these meds to an older baby for more than 48 hours, it is best to seek medical advice to find out what’s behind the fever.
For colds and blocked noses, you can also use normal saline nose drops eg ‘FESS,’ to unblock the plumbing and suction devices for removing stubborn boogies.
If young children are prescribed antibiotics, it’s a good idea to give them probiotics (available from pharmacies) at the same time, to protect the delicate ‘good germs’ in their gut.
Next time, I’ll talk about some of the common things GPs see in those early months of a baby’s life.