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  • Doctor Warns Of Steroids Being Sold As Vitamins And Its Dangerous Side Effects

    The medicines are being sold house-to-house and being passed off as vitamins.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Doctor Warns Of Steroids Being Sold As Vitamins And Its Dangerous Side Effects
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/White bear studio
  • Parents know that one of the best ways to fight COVID-19 is to boost their children’s immune health. To do this, kids needs to get the right vitamins and minerals through the food that they’re eating.

    But some moms and dads worry that this is not enough and that they need to give their children supplements to ensure they stay healthy. But without proper guidance from a doctor or pediatrician, giving supplements to kids can lead to more dangerous — even fatal — outcomes.

    Recently, a viral post has been circulating on social media that says medicine like dexamethasone and cyproheptadine are being sold as vitamins for kids. The original post came from Facebook page “I Am Doc Ninz,” which is run by a doctor named Nino Jeryl Dela Torre, MD.

    In his post, “Doc Ninz” says that he had been getting queries about dexamethasone and cyproheptadine and found out that people have been going door-to-door and peddling the medicine as vitamins.


    “This is an appeal, for all involved selling these drugs to our kababayans, for compassion and dignity. Please, let’s not feed on patients’ ignorance, desperation, or faith. Kawawa naman sila,” he wrote.

    “As a doctor, my heart breaks for these people, ‘wag ninyong sayangin ang mga pinaghirapan nila para lamang ibayad sa mga maling gamot na magdudulot pa lalo ng mas malaking pinsala!”

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    Dexamethasone is a type of drug known as a corticosteroid. It is used to treat conditions like arthritis, blood or hormone disorders, allergic reactions, skin diseases, eye problems, breathing problems, bowel disorders, cancer, and immune system disorders, according to WebMD. Cyproheptadine is an antihistamine used to relieve allergy symptoms.

    While taking these medicines can make you gain weight and appetite, a Filipino doctor tells SmartParenting.com.ph that these medicines should never be taken without a prescription.

    “The side effect [of dexamethasone], which is mainly Cushing Syndrome, can cause far more dangerous and sometimes fatal health outcomes,” shares Dr. Maria Cristina Ignacio-Alberto, a physician who specializes in pediatrics but practices general medicine in Health Index Multispecialty Clinic in Bacoor, Cavite.

    “Doc Tina,” as patients call her, emphasizes that the drug should not be used to increase weight. Taking it without proper guidance can lead to diabetes, osteoporosis and bone fractures, hypertension, muscle wasting, and increased risk of infections.


    On the other hand, while cyproheptadine can increase appetite and increase insulin (for growth), it can also have side effects like dizziness and sedation.

    The most worrisome side effect is Cushing syndrome, which is caused by the overuse of oral corticosteroid medication. “I haven’t seen any literature kung gaano katagal (before you see side effects), but in my experience after a month or two, typical Cushing face and habits, obvious na,” she shares.

    Persons with Cushing syndrome are on the heavy side with a “moon face” and “buffalo hump.” Doc Tina describes them as “mapayat ang extremities but ang taba sa trunk,” adding that once you see a person with the syndrome, you are unlikely to forget what they look like.


    “We should not take short cuts to improve the weight and nutrition status of our children,” she tells Smart Parenting. “There are no strict guidelines for supplementation, but judgment is based on the assessment of the pediatrician.”

    How to ensure your kids stay healthy amid the pandemic

    The best way to give your kids the right kind of nutrients is still through the food that they eat. Doc Tina recommends breastfeeding and a balanced diet (once the child is ready for solid food).

    “More fruits and veggies, proteins from fish and meat (with limitation due to fat content), and grains and cereals. Avoid simple sugars, empty calorie foods, fast food, and processed food,” she advises.

    If your pediatrician prescribes supplements for your kids, you should still make healthy food like fruits and vegetables as the primary source of vitamins. “They will miss a lot especially fiber if they don’t have a balanced diet,” she says.


    Doc Tina adds that parents often worry about their children’s health because they have no shared experiences with their kids. This leads to an incomplete understanding of what their little ones need.

    “Make children participate in preparing their meals and parents should also participate in their play,” Doc Tina says. “Encourage your kids to have 30 minutes of outdoor play daily.”

    Lastly, she reminds parents that children who are “mataba” are not always healthy. “Lagi ‘yang concern ng parents: Weight. Dapat talagang iredefine,” she says.

    “Vitamins are micronutrients. They don’t really increase weight but are necessary for many functions. The one that really increases weight are carbohydrates, fats and protein. but we also don’t want it in excess. Otherwise, obesity ang kalalabasan,” she explains.

    Want to boost your immune system? Click here to read how you can ensure you have enough of these essential vitamins and nutrients.

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