When it comes to kids’ health, grandma may not know best

By Isaac Heller • Published: July 11th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Grandparents often play a vital role in their grandchildren’s lives. But according to new research, having been a parent doesn’t necessarily make them experts when it comes to children’s health issues.

A study by the Northwell Health network in New York showed certain parenting practices have evolved since the grandparents were younger. For example, 44 percent of grandparents surveyed thought ice baths were a good way to lower a child’s high fever when, in fact, this can cause hypothermia. They also found nearly a quarter of the adults didn’t know that infants should be put to sleep on their back — not on their stomach or side, a major risk for sudden infant death syndrome. And only 8 percent knew it is OK to give children milk and other dairy products if they have diarrhea.

This information was concerning because according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 7 million children in the United States are being raised by their grandparents.

The researchers also found that 22 percent of grandparents indicated they did not have adequate help to meet their needs. And nearly half the respondents said parenting a young child had negatively affected their own emotional or physical health. These findings suggest that support systems for grandparents raising grandchildren are vital for the health of both parties.

With so many grandparents serving as primary caregivers, researchers say it is vital for pediatricians and family physicians to be aware of “generational differences in parenting health beliefs.” Providing grandparents with guidelines and offering them patient education also can help them help their grandchildren avoid a variety of health risks.