Furbies, Spice Girls, and Dunkaroos — the '90s had a lot of cool things going for it. But like dial-up Internet and sweater vests, some things are best left in the past, and the medical advice of that era is one of them.
When it came to treating kids, pediatricians of the time pretty much abided by the more is more mantra, doling out meds and antibiotics like candy. When it came to actual candy, however, and sugar-packed soda, they were much less likely to bat an eye.
In fact, nutritional advice differed massively to what doctors tell parents these days, and if your kid suffered from allergies or intolerances, it would most likely have gone under the radar.
Whereas certain lipids are now considered a vital part of a healthy eating plan, they were the enemy in the '90s, and pediatricians believed that refined-sugar-loaded carbs were the answer to obesity problems. Yikes.
Thankfully, medical science has come a long way in 30 years, and the nineties introduced major shifts in the thinking around SIDS, discipline, and pregnancy — recommendations that are still in place today.
Here’s a list of commonplace medical advice from the nineties that will raise a few eyebrows today.
20 Lipids Were Bad, Carbs Were Good
In the nineties, kids were taught that eating healthy meant cutting out fat and cholesterol and eating a ton of carbs. Complex carbohydrates were the foundation of the nineties’ food pyramid.
The food industry used the low-fat, high-carb mantra to create everything from fat-free frozen yogurt to fat-free muffins. But all they were doing was replacing fat with lots of sugar.
We now know that some fats are healthy and vital to a good eating plan and sugar, on the other hand, is not. Current guidelines emphasize a more balanced plan of whole grains, proteins, vegetables, and good fats.
19 Babies Snoozing On Their Front Was OK
In 1993 alone, nearly 4,700 US infants were affected by SIDS. This was the decade that saw major revisions in the advice doctors gave parents about how to put babies to sleep. The Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) started advising against tummy-sleeping, and in 1994 it launched the “Back to Sleep” campaign, urging caregivers to place babies to sleep on their back.
Research found that infants placed to sleep on their stomachs were at least double the risk of SIDS. The campaign worked and research shows that between 1993 and 2010 the percent of infants placed to sleep on their backs increased from 17% to 73%. As a result, SIDS dropped by more than a whopping 50 percent.
18 They Had Very Different Advice On Car Seats
It wasn’t until 1996 that the AAP issued its first major recommendations about car seat safety. These included advice that infants should ride rear facing until they are at least one year of age and that rear-facing car seats should be placed in the back seat if a car had a passenger side airbag.
These days, the AAP’s guidelines are much more detailed and stringent, advocating a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible. Children should then use a forward-facing seat up to the highest weight or height allowed by the seat's manufacturer, before progressing to a booster seat up to between eight and 12 years of age.
17 Immunizations Were A Given
There is so much contrasting information out there about vaccines. From the internet, doctors, friends, and families - heck, even celebrities - new parents are bombarded with so many opinions, ideas, and recommendations that it can be difficult to know who to trust. The subject can be both worrisome and sensitive for parents.
In the nineties, however, vaccinations were just a given. Parents didn’t bat an eyelid at the recommendations given by pediatricians. When it comes to vaccines, is this is still the case for many today. But what we are seeing right now is a very vocal group of parents questioning the effectiveness of this method.
16 Strict Baby Feeding Schedules Were Recommended
In the past, physicians used to recommend parents feed their infants at regularly-spaced intervals of every three to four hours, whether they were breastfeeding or using bottles. This thinking was intended to prevent over-feeding and schedules for babies were also believed to be more beneficial for moms and dads too. Today, however, medical recommendations have shifted in favor of letting babies decide.
Responsive feeding is now considered the best approach for meeting little ones’ needs, both physical and emotional. It means paying attention to the baby while offering food, watching her reaction, learning cues, and responding promptly to her needs.
15 Peanuts And Eggs Were Not Advised For Babies
Back in the nineties, feeding babies allergenic foods like eggs and peanuts was a bit taboo. It was thought that early introduction might make a child more likely to develop allergies to these foods. Even pregnant and breastfeeding moms were advised to avoid them if they had a family history of food allergies.
This is not the advice anymore, however. Research has actually suggested that the reverse is true. Although exclusive breastfeeding or infant formula is recommended for around the first six months of life, evidence has shown that delaying the introduction of peanut and eggs beyond six to 12 months may actually increase the risk of developing an allergy to these foods.
14 Crib Bumpers Were No Biggie
Crib bumper pads can look really pretty in a newly furnished nursery. They look cozy too, and what a great way to stop baby’s little legs poking out through the bars.
But according to guidelines published by the Academy of Pediatrics in 2011, bumper pads should never be used in infants' cribs. According to the AAP, bumpers carry a potential risk of suffocation and are a contributing SIDS risk factor. Plus, they do absolutely nothing to prevent injury.
Of course, these guidelines came too late for parents in the nineties and the message is still not getting through - crib bumpers are still readily available to buy today.
13 Dole Out Meds For A Common Cold
Cough syrup and cold meds were freely available for infants and young children in the nineties. These days, however, the Academy of Pediatrics recommends against any over-the-counter cough and cold preparations for children under six.
The truth is that there is no magic medicine to help snotty, sneezing, coughing kiddies feel better. In fact, cold medicines might actually pose a health risk in young children, according to research by The BMJ.
The best thing parents can do for children with colds is keep them hydrated, give ibuprofen for fever, and honey to soothe a cough (but no honey for babies under one).
12 Baby Walkers Seemed Totally Safe
According to a study published in Pediatrics, an estimated 230,676 babies visited an emergency room for baby walker-related injuries in the US between 1990 and 2014. It’s little wonder, then, that pediatricians are now calling for these devices to be banned outright.
Walkers might seem like a great idea. Babies love the newfound independence they provide and they allow parents to catch a break. But accidents are common, stair-related incidents especially so. Babies are also prone to falling out. Not only that, doctors cite concerns that they might actually delay babies’ development. If only parents in the nineties knew.
11 They Had Less Strict Views About Discipline
At home and in schools, we’re seeing a huge shift towards positive discipline models, discipline that is based on treating the cause of bad behavior, not punishing the behavior itself.
Yelling and punishing were pretty much commonplace disciplinary methods for kids in the nineties. In fact, it wasn’t until 1998 that the Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement on the subject, addressing how physicians should counsel parents on the use of discipline. It recommended the use of positive reinforcement and the potential negative effects of more severe methods.
The organization cited research linking severe punishment with increased aggression in children, as well as anger-management issues in adulthood.
10 Panic At The First Hint Of Fever
Nothing is more worrisome for a parent than a child with a fever. A high temperature evokes worry and anxiety about possible complications and accompanying symptoms.
Pediatricians once thought that a rise in temperature above 105 Fahrenheit could lead to effects on the brain, and this panicked nineties moms and gave rise to "fever phobia.” Many parents believed that fevers were a medical emergency and required immediate attention.
These days, there isn’t such strong agreement among doctors as what constitutes a dangerously high temperature and medical advice is now that parents only seek professional help if their child expresses other symptoms such as vomiting and severe headache.
9 Not So Bothered About Sunscreen For Kids
Young skin is especially sensitive to damaging UV rays and blistering sunburn in childhood can double your kid’s lifetime risk of melanoma, the most serious form of that disease so many battle after a life in the sun.
As much as 80% of total lifetime sun exposure occurs during childhood and research shows that routine sunscreen use by children could reduce subsequent serious skin disease development by 78%. Sunscreen, covering skin and avoiding excessive sun exposure are all heavily advised by pediatricians today.
But the general public, and doctors, were not quite so sun savvy in the nineties. While sunscreen was recommended, the vital importance of it to later life health was largely underestimated. UV swimwear was hard to come by, too.
8 More Likely To Prescribe Antibiotics
Antibiotics are an invaluable tool for wiping out bacterial infections but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now warns of their overuse and the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
This is why doctors are now way more careful about prescribing these medicines. This change of approach began in the nineties and, according to a 2002 survey by U.S.'s Medical Association, doctors lowered the number of antibiotic prescriptions for children with common respiratory infections by about 40% during the decade.
Over-prescribing is still a problem, however, and of the 74 million antibiotic prescriptions given to kids each year in the U.S., research has indicated that at least one-third are unnecessary.
7 It Was More Of A 9-5 Job
Kids don’t just get sick between the work hours of nine to five. A parent can be taken by surprise by an ill child at any time, and the thought of having to wait until the next day for medical advice can be unbearable.
Luckily, parents today are far more likely to have access to pediatric help when they need it, as on-call doctors are happy to accept calls around the clock.
This kind of after-hours care wasn’t a big part of the pediatric workload in the nineties. Docs of the day urged patients to call only within working hours, and anything before 9 pm or after 5 pm just had to wait.
6 Food Allergies Were Not Really Recognised As A Thing
Not all food allergies are life-threatening. Symptoms can vary from person to person and can range from the mild - itchy mouth, a few hives - to severe, like throat tightening, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis.
Food allergies are estimated to affect 4%-6% of children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also reports that the prevalence of food allergy in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011. Researchers have also noted a significant increase in food intolerances. No one knows what’s causing this rise.
Tremendous progress has been made in the diagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerances, but unless reactions were extreme, kids in the nineties may have gone undiagnosed. The medical awareness among pediatricians just wasn’t there.
5 Bicycle Helmets Weren't So Encouraged
Parents and medical professionals in the nineties were way more relaxed about kids wearing helmets and protective gear on bikes, scooters, and skateboards.
It is estimated that 33 million children ride bicycles for nearly 10 billion hours each year, but only 25% of children use helmets, and that's the figure today - it was likely much lower thirty years ago.
Every year, about 450,000 children are treated in emergency departments for bicycle-related mishaps. Of these, 153,000 are related to the head. This is why pediatricians are much more vocal about the importance of preventative gear than they used to be.
4 Ear Cleaning With Q-Tips Was Standard
From 1990 to 2010, there were more than 263,000 emergency room visits in the US for ear-cleaning injuries in children. In most of these incidents, children hurt themselves by trying to clean their own ears, but caregivers were also guilty of causing injury.
These days, medical advice is to avoid Q-tips full stop. Ear wax might look funny and gooey but it’s actually healthy and protective when present in normal amounts. Ear canals are also self-cleaning. Using cotton tip applicators only pushes wax closer to the eardrum. So parents should resist the temptation to interfere.
3 Pregnant Moms Still Told They Were Eating For Two
Eating for two is a myth that still persists today. The difference is that doctors are much more likely to give expectant moms the right nutritional advice during pregnancy and more likely to monitor weight gain than they were in the '90s.
The U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advises that “energy needs do not change in the first six months of pregnancy” and for the last trimester, women only require around 200 extra calories per day. This is equivalent to just two pieces of wholegrain toast or a small handful of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. So keep that in mind before reaching for that extra doughnut.
2 Screen Time For Kids Was A No-No
In the late 1990s, the AAP was pretty outspoken about screen time for kids, as well as TV’s potentially negative physical and psychological effects. It strongly advised that children under the age of two should not be put in front of the TV or videos and older children’s usage should be strictly regulated.
As cellphones, tablets, and computers have become an integral part of everyday life, the organization has since relaxed its views. It now recommends avoiding screen time for kids under 18 months, high-quality programming only for 18-24 month-olds, and just one hour per day for children aged two to five.
1 They Had No Idea How Dangerous Sugar Was For Kids
Remember Sunny Delight, Hi-C, and Squeezits? Supermarket shelves in the nineties were lined with sugar-packed products marketed at kids, masquerading as vaguely healthy.
The above drinks, for example, contained small amounts of actual fruit juice, accompanied by a whole lot of high fructose corn syrup.
While doctors in that decade were largely happy to turn a blind eye, the AAP is no longer quiet on the issue of high sugar drinks, like fruit juice. In 2007, the organization announced that children under 12 months shouldn’t drink juice at all, and toddlers should have no more than four ounces per day.
Sources: AAFP; Unicef; NHS; CNN; NY Times; The BMJ; Buzzfeed News; The National Center for Biotechnology Information; Consumer Reports; Science Direct.