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According to Medco Health Solutions, more than 25 percent of children and teenagers in the United States were taking medication to treat chronic conditions in 2009. It may not surprise you that many older adults have chronic illnesses that require ongoing medication, but the fact that one out of four American children does as well could serve as a wake-up call. Are we raising a generation of pill-poppers?

Why Medicating Children Has Increased
Several factors may be responsible for this increase in medication for children. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, one reason is that drugs are simply more available as an option for helping children, and doctors and parents have become more aware of them. Another reason is that many conditions can now be diagnosed at earlier stages, thanks to improving screening techniques. With earlier diagnosis comes earlier treatment.

But other factors may be at work here as well, and these are less pleasant to acknowledge. According to alternative physician Dr. Joseph Mercola, it’s true that type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure are on the rise among children. However, these and other chronic conditions can be attributed to unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and too much stress. It’s no secret that Americans are in an obesity epidemic, and the same unhealthy lifestyles that adults have are adopted by children as well.

From Couch Potato to Pill Popper
Unfortunately, the mentality of unhealthy diets and couch-potato lives stems from an overarching desire for Americans to have what they want, when they want it, without much thought for consequences. This mentality can extend to the doctor’s office. When parents bring their sick children in, they usually expect a cure. Cures that come in a pill bottle are relatively easy to handle without disrupting lives, while cures involving an exercise program or giving up sweets aren’t so easy to adopt.

What Parents Can Do
This doesn’t mean that medication doesn’t have its place. It’s important not to give unnecessary drugs to children, but it’s also important that their medical needs are addressed. Here are some ways you can be proactive when your child needs or may need medication.

• Don’t treat your children for illnesses they don’t have. If your child is diagnosed with a chronic illness requiring regular medication, get a second opinion.

• If other options are available besides medication, consider using those first. If lifestyle changes or behavioral therapy would do the trick as well, consider those before turning to medication.

• If your child is prescribed medication, research it thoroughly. Learn about side effects and how the drug is expected to help your child.

• Make sure children take their medication as prescribed. Don’t just hope they do.

• Watch your child carefully for signs of side effects. Note whether the child’s symptoms are improving.

• Stay up-to-date on research involving the medication, as well as other treatment options for your child’s condition. Discuss any new findings with your doctor.

Keep Your Kids Healthy
Medication doesn’t have to be the end of the world for your child. In fact, medication for children who need it can help them live more normal, happy lives. However, the rise in medicating children long-term has caused some alarm. When it comes to your child, it’s best to act cautiously instead of seeking the easy fix.

Guest author Andrew Rios is a father of three and freelance blogger for accessrx.com a site where you can order medications online. To learn more you can read Accessrx.com Health Articles or an Accessrx review.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to protect their children’s health.

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