“Cough syrups are killing our children” says Dr. Adil Waris, Pediatric Pulmologist.
My daughter Shiko has a chest condition. I discovered this four years ago, when she was 4 years old. We visited Dr. Waris of Aga Khan Hospital because every time she developed a cold and we visited the hospital, she would be given cough syrups and her condition did not seem to improve. Then during one of our hospital visits, an inhaler was prescribed and being asthmatic myself, I decided to seek a second opinion from a Chest Specialist (Dr. Waris).
During this visit he made it clear that inhalers should only be used after a diagnosis has been made. Many people believe that inhalers are a red flag to something more critical but he assured me that if administered properly, they will be used for a short period and be a long term solution to the problem/condition. A few tests during that visit revealed that Shiko was indeed asthmatic. He put her on a combination of two inhalers for two weeks and gave us tips on how to manage triggers in future.
Believe it or not, after the 2 week monitoring period, Shiko has not needed to be on inhalers and her chest condition has flared up since.
Last week however, she started coughing. Me being a mother of three and with the last four’s years passing being without much incident, I confidently went to the chemist and got her a cough syrup. The cough did not improve. In fact, in addition to the cough, she had now developed a wheeze and some chest pains. This of course concerned me. On past Monday (18th Jan 2016), I took her back to see Dr. Waris.
Remember, the last time Shiko saw Dr. Waris was 4 years ago when she was 4. She is now 8. What really amazed me was she was looking forward to the visit. I mean, how many Doctors do we know to leave such a memorable impression on a young child? She could actually remember that back then he didn’t have a beard!
He caught up on her health for the last four years. He then inquired as to our visit. I told him. He asked as to what I had done to ease her discomfort and I confidently told him about the cough syrup I had gotten her. He literally stopped in his tracks. He was not at all happy about this because apparently cough syrups are dangerous. Not just dangerous but very very very dangerous. Apparently they are one of the leading causes of death in children and have been banned in many countries. Unfortunately many parents are not aware of this and as they more convenient (no need for a prescription) and perhaps cheaper than hospital visits, they continue to administer over-the-counter cough syrups to their children. I’m sure you like me were not aware of this. I asked him why then are these very dangerous medications sold by Chemists, Hospitals and readily prescribed by our Doctors. The reason he gave me made me very sad. For fear of any repercussions, I will not state it here.
When I got home that evening, I went online and did my research and sure enough what I found got me really scared. Though most of the cases are from overseas (ironically where most of our cough syrups come from), the storied are very eye opening. Below are a few links:
Dr. Waris’ prescribes that just like our parents did with us, we are to use warm water, lemon and honey as a remedy for coughs and colds. However, if the condition persists, he advises that one should book an appointment with a Chest Specialist for further diagnosis.
His details are listed below:
Consultant Pediatric Pulmonologist
Lecturer at the Aga Khan University and the University of Nairobi
Doctor’s plaza 4th Floor Room 403
Aga Khan University hospital
Telephone 3662702 Mobile 0713 452 201 / 0737 377 227
Emergency only: 0733 725 972
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