Please Give Your Child Candy On Halloween & Other Times Too

I”m a pediatrician, mom of 3 and to many this may come as a surprise but  yes I give my kids candy on Halloween. And I don’t mean the organic, gluten free, non GMO, no artificial color or flavoring, good for you “treats”.  I’m talking chocolate, caramel bars, gummies and sour balls. Personally, my all time favorite is red Twizzlers (yup, I’m admitting over the internet) Nevertheless, I have spent over two decades in medicine improving kids habits to decrease chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension,diabetes, cancers as well as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. I want your kids to participate in the festivities, feel ok about their relationship with candy, and not feel like their goodie bag has to be only filled with pencils, stickers, coins and erasers or else the somehow failed at being healthy.

If we want kids to eat healthfully then we must stop labeling foods “good or bad”. Food is simply food. Granted some foods are more nutrient dense than others.  We all know how important it is to eat more fruits and vegetables, high fiber, limit red meat, while cutting down on added sugar. So that’s not the issue .We need to make food, especially junk non nutritious snacks less important and powerful. No more bribing with candy, or allowing it only after 2 cups of lima beans have been consumed, Instead enjoy the piece of candy at that moment- be mindful- and don’t spend it feeling guilty or negative.

                                       7 Guilt-free Candy Tips  from Dr. Jen

1 Don’t refer to candy as good or bad. It’s just candy (and yes its filled with sugar) I guarantee if they eat too much then they will get a stomachache- and that will be bad :(

2 Avoid telling your child they will be fator you will be mad if they eat candy. This tactic never works. Stay in the here and now . It’s better to just let them choose which candy to have and have them enjoy that one treat than to deprive them of any candy.

3. Add in some extra exercise by walking to the farthest house for trick or treating because the only way to get home is to walk all the way back.

4 Make holidays like Halloween, not just about the candy, treats and gifts. Also incorporate  games, read stories, watch holiday shows together,as this will  take the focus off candy and emphasizes the social aspect of the day too.It also will make for lasting memories.

5 Decide how much candy your child can save for another day but let your child choose which ones they want to keep. I will add its better to store the saved booty  in the kitchen rather than in the child’s room, particularly if you know they will sneak it and eat it alone by themselves.

6 If your child collected bags full of candy, donate the extra to a shelter or other organization. Have your child participate in giving it away, don’t just do it yourself on the sly. This reinforces sharing and the importance of giving to others who may not have been able to partake in their own family festivities.

7 Allow candy or treats(in moderation) on nonholidays or events. Don’t bribe or make threats to access it. Go ahead, enjoy it. You are the parent and can decide how much to give and when it’s appropriate. Just remember choosing to never allow any junk will  most likely backfire,

The holiday season is definitely upon us, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza on its way. The excess of food and sweets is also a constant in our daily lives and its important as a parent to be aware that by making forbidden foods less forbidden, a healthier long term goal is achievable. By allowing small amount without negative feelings you can shape the way your child relates to food and their health. What do you think? How do you deal with candy in your home, let me know in the comments below.


Motrin or Tylenol: The Great Debate for Treating Fever in Kids

                            Motrin vs Tylenol: The Great Debate for Treating Fever in KIds


As a pediatrician, I am asked on a daily basis from worried parents about what they should give their child with a fever,  Motrin (Ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) to bring down the temperature.

 This question always requires more than a one word response to the choice between antifever medications .  An explanation about if medication is even necessary for the fever and to clarify many long standing fever phobia misconceptions.  Mainly, it is not necessary to treat the number on the thermometer, nor is it always necessary to bring the temperature down.

 What is important is to address how the child is feeling and behaving regardless of their temperature. Are they happy, playful drinking fluids or are they cranky, irritable and uncomfortable? If the former then no fever reducing medicine is even necessary.  What pediatricians want parents to know is to not be scared of fever, it’s the body ‘s way of fighting off the infection. The goal of a fever reducer is to make a kid feel better so they can rest and recover.  The over the counter medicine does treat the illness nor make them better or less contagious any faster. The take home message is to use fever reducers for added comfort not just because your child has an elevated temperature documented on the thermometer.


Now that you have come to the decision that a fever reducer is warranted, here is some information on helping you decide which one to use Motrin or Tylenol.

Fever reducer tips by Dr. Jen

Fever reducer tips by Dr. Jen


Efficacy and Safety - Both Tylenol and Motrin are effective in bringing fever down in otherwise healthy kids over the age of 6 months.  From my longstanding experience with patients, the fever does tend to decrease  faster and remain lower a bit longer with Motrin than with Tylenol. But choosing which to give when your child is sick often comes down to what you have on hand in your kitchen or bathroom cabinet when your child needs it. Always use the measuring device that comes with the bottle or a measuring spoon or syringe. A kitchen spoon is not an accurate measure and can lead to under or even overdosing.

Length of Action- Tylenol can be given at 4 hour intervals as needed where as Motrin is every 6 hours. As a parent, it’s nice to have less dosages to administer, especially if it’s a struggle because your child does not like to take medicine in the first place.  An all to common practice in my opinion is alternating Tyenol and Motrin. Parents often do this to keep the fever “down” or suppressed. In most cases this is not needed especially if you remember treatment is for comfort and not trying to get the thermometer to read 98.6F. In addition alternating medication every 3-4 hours leads often to medication errors and overdoses which can potentially be severe. So if you are giving both,( a practice I rarely recommend) please make sure to write down which medicine, the dosage and what time it was given, so all caregivers are aware to avoid errors.

Dosing is Key- Regardless of whether you are giving Ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), make sure you know the correct dosage for your child. Dosage is always based on their weight NOT on their age. This will help to ensure the medication works as weight is much more accurate than a child’s age (so keep their weight from their last check up visit handy). A common mistake I hear when a parent tells me that a fever reducer “didn’t work” is not giving the full recommended dosage. Often parents are scared of over medicating so they give a reduced or lesser amount than indicated and then are surprised it didn’t help the symptoms adequately.   Tip, if you are going to give a medication always give the correct full dosage each time.

Pros and Cons - Tylenol can be administered to infants under 6 months of age. It does not cause stomach upset and can be used for pain or for fever reducing and lasts about 4 hours. An added perk about acetaminophen is that it also comes in suppository form if your child is vomiting or refusing to take anything by mouth, often this is the easiest route to deliver the medicine in a sick infant/toddler.  The downside to Tylenol it can cause liver toxicity if given in excess or accidental overdose,  so give as directed and keep it stored high up and out of range when not in use.

Motrin is also great for fever reduction but has added benefit for reducing inflammation likes sports and muscle injuries. It keeps fever down longer and the dosing is less often at every 6-8 hours as needed. Remember Ibuprofen is for children over the age of 6 months of age, it may cause more stomach upset so avoid if your child is vomiting or not eating.

Lastly which fever reducer to give may ultimately come down to your child’s preference. Neither fever reducer will be helpful if they just won’t take it. Because both are safe and effective when taken correctly, opt for the one your child will take without a major meltdown or tantrum. This may be based on its flavor, consistency or even form ( liquid vs chewable)  And remember lots of extra TLC , added fluids to drink to avoid dehydration and even a tepid bath or cool compress on their forehead for added comfort and relief.