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Alternative medicine has much to offer children. To help you get started, we’ve talked to the experts and consulted leading references for advice.
1. COUGHS AND COLDS There’s still no cure for the common cold. But instead of dosing your child with an antibiotic (which won’t work anyway, since colds are viral), or reaching for an over-the-counter drug that may squelch symptoms but cause side-effects, try echinacea tincture, vitamin C, zinc and oscillococcinum, at the first signs of a cold or flu. After a cold gets going, various homeopathic treatments help combat symptoms ranging from nasal congestion and swollen glands (try kali muriaticum) to fever with cough and sweating (belladonna) to a loose rattling cough (pulsatilla) to a wet, clogged nose (hephar). Add rosemary or orange oil to the humidifier to unstuff a blocked nose. 2. EAR INFECTIONS Recent studies show that in most cases children recover from ear infections just as well without antibiotics as with them. In fact, treating ear infections with antibiotics can weaken the immune system, says naturopath Dr Mary Bove, author of An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants. That, in turn, can lead to more infections – and more antibiotics. In contrast, alternative therapies ease earache and help break the cycle of infection. Fluid trapped in the middle ear – which causes infection and pain – can sometimes be released with ‘a fizzy’, as my children call Hexal’s ACC. This is N-acetylcysteine in a fizzy form, and it dilutes the thick mucus so it can run out of the ear. Osteopathic treatment can also be of benefit, as once you get the fluid moving the earache will go away. Chiropractic may also work. Mullein oil, made from the powerful herb, reduces swelling and inflammation. Heat it to slightly above body temperature and put 1 or 2 drops of warm oil into the affected ear 3 times a day for 3 days. Mullein oil can be combined with a very small amount of garlic oil for an antiviral and antibacterial combo. Don’t use this if your child’s eardrum is perforated, so check with your doctor first. Some practitioners are recommending an unusual new preventive remedy for children with recurring ear infections: xylitol! This naturally occurring sweetener has a slightly different chemical make-up from sugar – and therefore different effects. Other sugars promote the growth of bacteria, particularly Streptococcus mutans, which causes cavities and is closely related to another species of bacteria that is the major cause of ear infections. Xylitol, in contrast, inhibits S. mu-tans. A major study showed that children who chewed xylitol-sweetened gum – 2 pieces 5 times a day, for a total of 8.5 grams – halved their incidence of ear infections. 3. TUMMY TROUBLE Diarrhoea shouldn’t be sup-pressed too quickly, because your child will feel better after his or her system has been flushed clean. But be sure to keep your child hydrated during this process. Natural remedies can ease the discomfort of diarrhoea, and peppermint tea and ginger can soothe an aching tummy. For babies, try 1 teaspoon of ginger tincture with 2 tablespoons of filtered water. Give 3 - 5 drops every 1 - 2 hours. Yoghurt with active cultures or supplemental Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. bifidus restores healthy flora to intestines disrupted by antibiotics or other disturbances. For gas or cramps try magnesia phosphorica, available as a tissue salt. 4. ASTHMA Asthma can be life-threatening, so children should never go ‘cold turkey’ on their conventional medications and should remain under a doctor’s care. The doctor can advise you about cutting back on inhaled steroids and other drugs while introducing alternatives. If your child’s condition remains stable or improves, you may be able to cut back some more. Dr Randall Neustaedter, a doctor of oriental medicine and author of The Child Health Guide, says he’s been able to completely wean children from prescription bronchodilators and steroids with a combination of homeopathy and herbs. He suggests so many options that it’s difficult to recommend a single regimen, so consult his book or a homeopath for advice. Excerpts from his book are available online at www.cure-guide.com/Child_Health_Guide/child_health_guide.html In Japan, children with bronchial asthma who were given fish oil capsules had fewer asthma symptoms. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the body’s production of inflammatory chemicals. Vitamin C reduces reactivity to histamine (the chemical that causes bronchial spasm), and together with magnesium can help with breathing problems. 5. COLIC Studies have shown that herbal teas – particularly chamomile, but also fennel, vervain, dill, liquorice and balm mint – are helpful. Mix them with breast-milk or formula, try a little bit at a time to see if your baby is allergic, and don’t give more than 120 - 170 ml a day. Osteopaths have reported good results treating colic, which some think is caused by the combination of an immature gut and cranial nerves that were compressed or irritated during the birth process. 6. ATTENTION DISORDERS Many symptoms get lumped together under the ‘attention disorder’ label, and way too many children end up on prescription drugs such as Ritalin. Before medicating a child who can’t pay attention or is aggressive, it’s worth considering other options. One study showed that when children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) ate a diet free of chemical additives, preservatives, MSG, chocolate and caffeine, they had fewer behaviour problems and less trouble sleeping. Vitamins E and C, magnesium, flax seed and primrose oils and zinc have all proved effective in decreasing symptoms of ADHD, and it’s worth having your child tested by a naturopath to see which might work best for him or her. A British study found that children with ADHD showed far fewer signs of hyperactivity once they began taking homeopathic medicine. Here again there are too many options to recommend a particular remedy, so you should consult a homeopath. In another study, children treated with acupuncture were calmer and better able to focus and interact appropriately. At the Healing Center of the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, techniques such as yoga, biofeedback and guided imagery are used to help children slow down. ‘We teach parents to relax as well,’ says paediatrician Dr Mike Cantwell, ‘since there’s evidence that children may feed off their parents’ anxiety.’ 7. AUTISM Cantwell believes that conven-tional medicine has little to offer autistic children. But this condition has responded well to some alternative therapies. ‘There’s some evidence that a high daily dose of cod liver oil is beneficial,’ says Cantwell. The natural vitamin A in this oil is thought to benefit receptors critical for sensory perception, language processing and attention. Some doctors prescribe a combo of prescription bethanechol, a drug that comes from betel nuts, and natural cod liver oil. Eighteen studies have established that vitamin B6 and magnesium can produce dramatic improvement in some cases of autism. DMG (formerly called vitamin B15) is another safe non-prescription nutrient that has improved speech, learning and attention span. Some autistic children may benefit from a diet free of gluten and casein. These proteins are found in the common allergens milk and whey, and it’s thought that food allergies may exacerbate developmental problems in some children. 8. HEADACHES See a doctor immediately if your child also has a high fever, vomiting or a stiff neck. Otherwise, try one or more of these therapies. Tension is a major cause of headaches, so learning to relax is key. In fact, there’s more evidence that hypnosis and guided imagery cure migraines in children than there is for conventional medicine. Biofeedback can also help. Homeopathic remedies vary for different types of headaches, so consult a practitioner or reference book. I found the Pegasus combination migraine remedy to help my 10-year-old. An elimination diet may determine whether your child’s headaches are caused by a particular food or chemical. A multivitamin with calcium and magnesium may also help, since these minerals calm muscles and relax blood vessels. Give a liquid combo supplement with 250 mg of calcium and 125 mg of magnesium twice a day, until the headache eases. While there haven’t been studies on children, anecdotal evidence suggests that manipulation techniques such as chiropractic, osteopathy and craniosacral therapy, which are all safe, can help ease headaches. What is guided imagery? Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is a therapeutic process using music and a trained facilitator to create an environment in which one can experience personal insights that provide answers and guidance for important life issues 9. PAIN There’s nothing worse than seeing a child in pain – from falls, from illness or from surgery. Fortunately you don’t have to sit by and wait it out. Acupuncture works so well that since the year 2000 it has been an option in more than 30% of the paediatric pain treatment programmes at academic medical centres in North America. Many studies show that biofeedback, hypnosis and guided imagery can help children suffering from postoperative pain and other discomforts. White willow bark is a natural anti-inflammatory that can be given in a tea with chamomile, or try arnica – an age-old treatment for pain from injuries or bruising. For post-surgical pain, homeopaths often prescribe hypericum. 10. CONSTIPATION Hard stools can be caused by a couple of days of poor eating. But if constipation persists, your child may need the help these gentle therapies can provide. Fibre is the safest treatment for constipation, and you can introduce it gradually. Start with whole-grain cereals and breads; if your child needs something stronger, sprinkle a gentle, natural laxative such as psyllium or flax seeds on cereal. Drinking plenty of water keeps stools from getting dry and hard. Techniques such as hypnosis and guided imagery could help the child whose constipation has an emotional component. A few sessions may be all that’s needed to get things back to normal.
She is editor, publisher and founding member of Natural Medicine and Dreamcatcher Publications. She has a passion for knowledge and strives to share the work of the brightest minds and biggest hearts in healing. For Daleen natural medicine is more than taking a pill for an ill philosophy. Natural medicine also encompasses nutrition, lifestyle, spiritual health, exercise, and emotional and mental well-being. She is the mother of three children.
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