Natural Remedies for Babies and Children: Where’s the user manual?
Having a user manual sure would make raising kids easy, except that every individual is different. Therefore every healthcare decision may also be different. Even in the same family, nothing applies to all children, all the time. Where standard medicine is concerned, this makes decisions for parents more difficult. What is referred to as the “Gold Standard” in medicine is set up based on the idea that every one of us is exactly alike. Research is done on a base of humans and the results are taken and used as the standard of care, until something proves the standard as not consistent with many humans after all. Still a gold standard once set is difficult to discard even if it isn’t as effective as research first indicated. Often it isn’t until adverse effects show up in the general public that a “gold standard” will be discarded. Gold standards as you might guess, are not always right, not always fitting of every individual, and many times driven by some big business entity with a profit in the mix. Take for instance mothers nursing their infants as documented in the history of breastfeeding on the National Institute of Health (NIH) web site:
As formulas evolved and research supported their efficacy, manufacturers began to advertise directly to physicians. By 1929, the American Medical Association (AMA) formed the Committee on Foods to approve the safety and quality of formula composition, forcing many infant food companies to seek AMA approval or the organization’s “Seal of Acceptance.” Three years later, advertising became regulated so that manufacturers could not solicit information to nonmedical personnel, which facilitated a positive relationship between physicians and the formula companies. By the 1940s and 1950s, physicians and consumers regarded the use of formula as a well-known, popular, and safe substitute for breastmilk. Consequently, breastfeeding experienced a steady decline until the 1970s (Fomon, 2001).
Eventually the companies that make infant formulas were allowed to market to the general public for massive exposure to pregnant and nursing mothers.
Currently, many believe the development and advertisement of infant formula has once again negatively impacted the practice of breastfeeding. Although the breastfeeding rate was 90% in the 20th century, it has decreased to approximately 42% in the 21st century (Gaynor, 2003; Wright, 2007). Research shows increasing trends of formula-fed children developing atopy, diabetes mellitus, and childhood obesity (Gaynor, 2003; Wolf, 2003). The detrimental effects of formula on children’s health, supporting Des-Essartz’s claim that breastmilk is superior for infant feeding, have initiated a “Breastfeeding versus Formula-Feeding Era.”
You will note that you never see formula advertisements on TV any longer. Formulas continue to be easy to access for those who need them. Moms are likely not told that the formulas are not the best choice for the infant’s health. They are certainly not told that it could lead to atopy, food allergies and sensitivities, diabetes, and childhood obesity as documented by the NIH. Moms have to seek that information themselves.
Lesson to Learn: seek guidance from the experienced professionals, not just one source, before making decisions that are going to affect you and your child. Making informed choices for each individual is the best way to have a full complement of ideas and options for each child.
In this month and next month’s Natural Nutmeg we are going to share some information about treatment options and ideas from Pediatric APRN Lara O’Neil and Naturopathic Doctors Summer McAllister, and Ann Aresco of ProNatural Physicians Group in Kensington CT. Children are as individual in their healthcare needs as adults, and there is never one answer for every condition in every child.
Knowing what works, and what doesn’t work for your child is the key to being able to successfully treat them with home remedies, and to knowing when to get medical care. It’s a balance that parents need to figure out for each of their children. Let’s discuss some of the most common childhood health issues and the natural remedies.
Fever is a big concern for many parents and children can withstand higher fever temperatures than adults. Fever is the body’s immune system response to correct infection. With a virus the temperature will usually be low and not require treatment. If the fever is higher but stable and the child isn’t showing signs of being very ill, the body will use the fever to fight the infection and eradicate it naturally without any further symptoms. If, however, the fever is too high, or you know the child has seizures with fevers then it should be addressed more aggressively.
Here are some signs to watch for and reasons to seek medical care:
- If your child is under one month old with a fever
- A high (above 103.5) or persistent fever (more than 3 days) for any age
- If the breathing seems fast, labored or with unusual noises
- If they have persistent pain in ears, throat, head or stomach
- Persistent vomiting and diarrhea, if they become lethargic or are not urinating at least twice a day
- Blood in vomit or diarrhea
- Stiff neck, extreme headache, or extreme lack of energy
- If your child is ill and has been exposed to a contagious disease or has traveled out of the country recently.
The point here is that if you know your child’s health and can let the immune system take care of a minor issue with some home remedies you don’t need to hurry off to the doctor with every fever. You also don’t always need to suppress the fever with medicine when it has a job to do, unless the symptoms indicate that more action is required. But you should be aware at what point you need to seek more treatment for your child.
Natural Treatments: When the fever is safe and medical attention is not needed, some important home remedies should be considered. Keep the child hydrated with plenty of water or old-fashioned bone broth soup, which will also provide important building blocks for the immune system. Taking plenty of vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C with bioflavonoids helps build the immune system.
Homeopathic Remedies: Homeopathy is always safe for kids and uses the body’s natural internal healing ability. It is most effective when directed by a skilled practitioner. Using the principle like cures like, remedies are matched with expressing symptoms to stimulate the body, rebalance and heal.
Some of the best remedies for fevers:
- Homeopathic Aconite napellus – use when the fever first manifests, especially if it appears after something extreme such as exposure to cold, a very windy day, or after a big emotional or physical shock. Also use if anxiety and restlessness are present.
- Homeopathic Belladonna is a good remedy when the face is bright red and flushed. The head can be hot but the hands and feet could be cool. The child may complain of a headache and is often thirsty for cold water and may ask for lemonade or lemons in the water.
- Homeopathic Ferrum phosphoricum is good for when a child is just starting to feel ill but the fever is not as intense. The cheeks have red patches with a pale complexion. The child could be a little restless but not anxious. Also use if the child is not as hungry, but still thirsty.
- Homeopathic Pulsatilla pratensis is indicated when the child is clingy, very emotional and easily upset. He or she wants to be carried in fresh air and has no thirst with the fever.
Stomachaches are one of the most common complaints from kids and can be caused by a variety of things. The stomach bug is the most common and is typically caused by a virus. Symptoms are usually diarrhea and vomiting, loss of appetite and stomach pains. The most important thing is to keep hydrated. Bone broths soups as well as coconut water are good to rehydrate your child as soon as they able to keep down fluids, and are a good alternative to sports drinks which contain sugar and additives.
Homeopathic Remedies Arsenicum album is the first remedy to think of with vomiting and diarrhea. Most kids are exhausted, but still restless and anxious.
Kids get heartburn too. Vomiting is a strong indicator of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). The goal of treatment in children with this condition is balance.
Natural Treatments: Fennel, chamomile and lemon balm tea and/or ginger tea can help ease indigestion. Use Papaya enzymes for digestive support. Try eliminating common food allergens: wheat, diary and soy. If the stomachaches are recurring, keep a food diary to help identify the cause. For reflux pain related to heartburn, sip on apple cider vinegar mixed with water. A good quality multi-strain probiotic supplement taken daily can help restore healthy gut bacteria and improve symptoms. Homeopathic phosphorus is good for kids who vomit easily and complain of burning stomach after cold drinks.
Testing for food sensitivities can help to eliminate aggravating foods and help the digestion to correct itself. These are different from the anaphylactic type of food allergies and more difficult to identify.
Remember: With persistent vomiting and diarrhea, if the child become lethargic or is not urinating at least twice a day, or if there is blood in the vomit or diarrhea, it’s time to go to your PCP.
Besides antihistamines and nasal sprays, there are other ways you can help ease symptoms and reduce the inflammatory response. Local, raw (not pasteurized) honey has natural properties that help with allergy symptoms for children over 1 year. Yes it works! Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and can be used in larger doses to help control the histamine release. Elimination of dairy from the diet will bring down some of the mucus production. Quercetin and stinging nettles herbal supplements work well for mild seasonal allergies as well as some homeopathic combination remedies.
Sinus rinsing/Neti pot is very beneficial to help prevent allergies turning into chronic infections. Use ¼ tsp sea salt with 1 cup distilled or boiled water cooled to room temperature. If infection is suspected add a silver solution, preferably water based, to help eliminate bacteria.
- Homeopathic Allium cepa is indicated for watery eyes with nasal discharge that irritates the nose and upper lip. Most times kids will feel better when in open air but worse in warm rooms.
- Homeopathic Arsenicum album is a great remedy for burning of eyes, nose and throat, repeated sneezing when waking up and generalized restlessness and anxiety. Most kids feel better from warmth and hot drinks.
- Homeopathic Euphrasia officinalis is good when the eyes are profusely tearing leaving the skin very tender with burning sensation and there’s also a non-irritating nasal discharge.
- Homeopathic Natrum muriaticum is great for the headaches associated with allergies. Most kids will have chapped lips and cracks in the corners of the mouth and sneeze frequently.
If your child develops persistent thick yellow or green mucus from their nose, or eyes, is having difficulty breathing, cough is getting worse especially with a fever, call your PCP.
Read about more children’s treatment options in the September issue of Natural Nutmeg.
Many natural remedies can help treat conditions at home and prevent a trip to the doctors but safety is always the best policy for kids. Knowing when to go to your Primary care provider is just as important as treating conditions naturally.
Submitted by Dr. Ann Aresco, Lara O’Neil APRN and Dr. Summer McAllister. Dr. Summer McAllister blends homeopathy with clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, detoxification, and acupuncture to address the root cause of illness. ProNatural Physicians Group is an integrated group of practitioners including naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists, APRNs and massage therapists. The practice is growing to include more medical modalities and to offer more family treatment options including vaccinations. Schedule your child’s back-to-school physical now with pediatric specialist, Lara O’Neil, APRN. For more information, www.ProNaturalPhysicians.com or call 860-829-0707.