Wednesday 25 January 2012

Vitamins, Children and Twitter Doctors

Last night I read an exchange on Twitter between television's Dr Christian Jessen and a mother, who was asking for advice about multivitamins and children. I follow Dr Jessen's feed, but I have no idea why! Must hark back to when I didn't have many followers and I collected "celebrities".

OH DEAR RT : what do u think about giving supplements to toddlers - Ive just started my 3yr old on a multivitamin
Now I got chatting to Redlottie and it was clear she was giving her child a children's multivitamin, how you would get a 3 year old to take one of those horse tablets is beyond me anyway, and Dr Jesson subsequently responded appropriately saying "kids vitamins are ok". He didn't explain why, or give any links, much less apologise. However before his clarification, some people on the twittosphere had given this mother a hard time "give the child vegetables", "get the child off the Wii and outside". Now I give my child vegetables every day. Whether he eats them or not is a different matter entirely. And is there enough sun light in the UK to supply a child's full requirement of Vitamin D? "Well generally it is thought not. Vitamin D is available only in small amounts in fish, eggs and dairy products.

The subject of vitamins is confusing. I now know that the official advice is to give vitamin drops or chews up until the age of 5, and here is a good fact sheet put together by the British Dietetic Association, that clarifies the issue nicely. When I went to get advice from the pharmacist, several months ago, about which ones were most suitable, she had no idea of the change. She'd had to look it up on her own NHS website for guidance. She was somewhat embarrassed that she had not been informed.

To me, the confusion lies in how professional people are informed of guidelines and changes therein. I know doctors and pharmacists (even ones who are not on telly) are incredibly busy people, but to me, this is a change in guideline that affects every child under the age of 5 and surely that's a big number of patients.

For parents of premature babies, giving vitamins is a way of life, particularly in the first year. It made me chuckle that Joseph had to have folic drops once a week, but only on a Friday. There's nothing magical about Friday, but it's an easy way to remember - "folic friday". Joseph also had to have Sytron, which is an iron supplement, Joulies Phosphate (which on discharge was harder to obtain than crack cocaine!) and Dailivit. I stopped the Dailivit once he was on nutriprem 2 as it has enough added vitamins, and he's now back on it again, in line with the guidelines. Once he is 3 I will give him the nice vitamin chewy sweets instead.

I think its so important than in this age of doctors on the television, and on Twitter, and on medical advice in ever newspaper and magazine, that we, as health consumers, are clued up enough to find the sources of correct information, and are critical of what we are told.

I felt yesterday was an important lesson, that just because a doctor says something, doesn't mean it is correct.


  1. I think you've misread this post, and I write primarily for mothers of premature babies, and what we see often is that GPs are just that "general" practitioners, they are not baby/children specialists and parents do need to be appropriately informed and educated. I would never advocate that parents do anything without consulting their health professionals, but healthcare is a partnership, not a one way street.

    I agree totally that wikipedia and the ilk is dangerous, and even blogs, which is why I either put a disclaimer or link to the source documentation on health posts.

    I truly hope you are not accusing me of "quack diagnoses" or of not respecting the NHS, because I would not be here without it.

    And for the record, the pharmacist did not make a mistake. She had no idea the guidelines had changed, and admitted to this. She even rang the GP who also did know the guidelines had changed either.

  2. internet research or basing medical decisions based on anything from the web should be a huge no no for everybody. I think it can be very dangerous sometimes

  3. I agree - it does not matter if it is for prem babies, 3 year olds or anything else - consult your doctor/GP and listen to what they say. Like I said in my post - I should be dead 10 times over, had both of my kidneys removed and other bits..... I tend to read about something on the internet AFTER the doctor has diagnosed the problem, and that is all I do and I do not look for symptons some American had.

    Respect your doctor and trust them. Do not trust the internet.

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