Being a paediatrician We see kids dailys. Parents of kids are usually concerned for their children. One of the most common queries is ‘ Which is the best tonic for kids?’
What is a tonic?
Tonic is medicine or food supplements that makes you feel good, energetic and a stimulant in nature. It can treat your tiredness which makes you feel energetic. Its stimulant effect on the brain makes you feel fresh and less tired.
In Indian local context tonic is the medicine that makes children more active, stimulates appetite and promotes the physical growth of the children.
History of tonic
Long time ago the Panama canal was built. In those days the technology was not advanced so a lot of manual labour was needed. Labourers were working hard to make the dream project a reality.
Because of hard work many people died. Remaining were always feeling tired with leg pain. So they started using stimulants of different sources to overcome this tiredness and gain energy to work. They were using different products like gin, vodka and quinine though all these chemicals were not clinically proven for the purpose.
Use of tonic water
Eventually people claimed that mortality has decreased at panama canal in labourers because of use of quinine. Other people also started using tonic water containing quinine as an ingredient.
Quinine is bitter in taste, to hide the taste of quinine manufacturers of tonic water started hiding the taste by other methods like sweetening the formula. Quinine was consumed in water or gin and vodka.
After knowing the side effects of irrational use of quinine, the US FDA banned high level quinine containing formulas. The use of quinine has since then declined.
Now in countries like India Tonic is the world which is used for any medicine that increases the wellbeing of the people and promotes the growth in children. In reality any multivitamin and appetite increasing drug is labelled as tonic.
People visiting their doctors for themselves and their children do ask for quinine.
Do tonics support growth?
In a normal child all the nutrients are obtained from the food which is a balanced diet. For the normal growth of the kids good nutrition is needed.
Good nutrition can be achieved with home made food which should be a balanced diet. Tonic is the word used for any multivitamin formula nowadays.
If an appropriate vitamin supplement is given in case of vitamin deficiency it may treat the deficiency and help the growth. Normal children who do not have any vitamin deficiency will not grow extra because someone gave them tonic for them.
Media bombards parents
Nowadays rather than by doctor parents are guided by the TV ads and promotion. Media takes advantage and makes every effort to create fear in parents of kids.
They promote different unnecessary and many times harmful products for the same purpose of earning money. Influenced parents who want the wellbeing of their babies buy those useless products.
Media will not promote healthy balanced home made food or how else will they earn money! The same media which promotes junk food all the time also promotes food supplements and tonics. There are very few regulations controlling such practices.
Even if there are regulations they are seldom enforced in practice.
Even these media houses are using actors wearing aprons and white coats like doctors to promote these products.
Fear about growth failure
Once parents are influenced with very heavy and constant marketing tactics by these companies, there is desired impact in their mind.
Any normal parent starts thinking whether his/her kid is growing slowly and lagging behind. Fear makes men and women ignore the facts.
They all start searching for tonics on the internet like you may have done. I have seen patients who ask for tonic even after counselling them that their child does not need one. They may not take efforts to feed the kid properly but they surely buy the tonics.
Some facts about growth
There are some important facts about the growth of children. They are as follows:
- Many parents who think their child is lagging behind in terms of physical growth have never seen the growth charts.
- Even if they see growth charts they use the growth charts which are for western populations who are inherently taller.
- When plotted on the correct growth chart and compared with mean parental height the kid has normal growth.
- Only a few children who lag behind on growth charts need appropriate investigations to find out the cause and treatment.
- In these cases also random tonics will not help to normalize the growth. They will need appropriate treatment for the growth failure.
Do children need tonics?
As recommended by WHO and IAP the food of the child should be prepared from locally available, home made and culturally acceptable food items. In any case, ready-made formulas should be discouraged.
The appropriate diet habits should be explained to the parents of the kids byy the healthcare provider.
Normal children do not need tonics for their normal growth and energy. The only exception is infants less than 1 year old should be provided with vitamin D and iron supplements.
The healthcare provider should assess the growth of height and weight of the children at every opportunity at the time of the vaccination or routine visits. Only the children who need supplements should be prescribed appropriate formulas.
Which is the best tonic for your kids?
This is the most common and most difficult question to answer. Parents should understand for the first 6 months of their life breast milk is the only nest food for the babies. At 6 months appropriate complementary food is suggested.
Less than 1 year old infants do need vitamin D and iron supplements but they should be prescribed by their pediatrician after assessing the children.
There is no best tonic for all children. Rather than wasting time and energy, parents should focus on providing an appropriate homemade balanced diet for their kids.