Parents give alcohol to children to treat cough

Friday September 20 2019

Sachet waragi being displayed.  S

Sachet waragi being displayed. Some parents in Kwania and Apac districts are giving their children alcohol to treat flu and cough. PHOTO BY JAMES OWICH 

By Monitor reporters

Some parents in Abongomola and Chawente sub-counties in Kwania and Apac districts are giving their children alcohol as treatment for flu and cough.

However, health experts warn about the dangers of introducing children to alcohol.
In Uganda people below 18 years are prohibited from taking alcohol.
Residents claim giving children small amount of distilled local potent gin at bedtime reduces the severity of their cough symptoms.

Others claim alcohol cures cough, flu and cold.
Ms Harriet Oceng, a resident of Abwal A cell, Ongica Parish, Chegere Sub-county in Apac District, says she introduced her one-and-half-year old baby to alcohol as a solution to persistent cough.

“When my baby started coughing last month, I went to a nearby clinic to buy some drugs but I could not afford it. My neighbour advised me to try alcohol. I bought waragi and gave her, now the cough is no more,” she said.

Mr Alfred Enyang, another resident, revealed that he only seeks health care services when his children suffer from other ailments, but not cough.

“When any of my four children starts coughing, I give them alcohol because it destroys it within hours,” he said.

The practice of treating coughing children with alcohol is widespread, according to Mr Felix Odwong, the councillor for Amorigoga Parish in Kwania District.


“This is mainly being done by their mothers, sometimes in the presence of other children, who also end up drinking alcohol at early ages,” Mr Odwong said.

Mr Odwong said because parents send children to buy alcohol many have become habitual drunkards.

“Most of them are not sending children to school claiming that they don’t have money for school requirements and fees yet they drink alcohol daily,” he added.

Mr Geoffrey Eling Owera, the secretary for health and education in Kwania, said he received informed that some parents were giving their children alcohol as medication for cough.

“This is a traditional belief which started long ago because we were told that mothers used to give some little local brew to newly born babies as a remedy for upset stomach upset,” he said
Mr Eling said they will not allow the trend to continue as children will become addicted to alcohol and in the end be unproductive citizens in future.

One of the resident’s whose brother was introduced to alcohol at the age of three, said: “Now at the age of 15, my brother is addicted to alcohol. We have tried everything to reduce or stop his drinking habit in vain.”

Health Experts opinion

Dr James Okullo, from Erute North, says: “When alcohol is given to children, it may make them to sleep and while they sleep, the body becomes relaxed thus reducing the severity of their cough symptoms but it does not cure the disease.”

He warned parents against offering children alcohol explaining that coughing is a normal reflex to clear the airway of small particles, microorganisms, mucus, or food or drinks accidentally going down “the wrong pipe”.
“Alcohol can instead make children to develop anaemia,” he said.

The Global Burden of Diseases study, which analysed levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries from 1990 to 2016 notes that no amount of alcohol is safe.

The research published in August 2018 in The Lancet was based on a review of nearly 700 existing studies on global drinking prevalence and nearly 600 studies on alcohol and health. It found that alcohol was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death in 2016, contributing to 2.8 million deaths worldwide.