Snuff out Your Child's Sniffles, Earaches and Sore Throats for Good
A child's recurring health problems, such as chronic ear infections, can seem insurmountable. Repeatedly putting children on antibiotics isn't ideal, but what else is there?
Other options do exist, and parents can discover many of them by consulting with a naturopathic physician. "We look for the cause of health problems — it's how we are trained," explains naturopathic physician Maide Romero, ND, LAc. Since naturopathic physicians root out the cause of ear infections and other health problems, they avoid the over-usage of pharmaceuticals. "The majority of ear infections are non-bacterial and therefore don't require antibiotics," says Eric Jones, ND, a clinical faculty member at Bastyr Center. However, for certain acute conditions, naturopathic physicians do prescribe antibiotics along with natural therapies.
Parents are often amazed at how effective natural health care can be at treating common children's ailments, including upper respiratory infections, ear and sinus infections, eczema and asthma. Treatment, which is prescribed on an individualized basis, might include dietary and lifestyle changes, homeopathic remedies, herbal remedies, vitamin and mineral supplements and hydrotherapy.
Naturopathic physicians also have an excellent referral and consulting network, often utilized in order to provide the best treatment for children. "I often consult with an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist or Pediatrician if I'm dealing with an acute case," says Dr. Jones.
If natural health care is so effective, then why don't all parents go this route? Many parents simply don't know it is available, and those who do might be hesitant about adopting the lifestyle changes that naturopathic physicians often prescribe.
Fortunately, naturopathic physicians are skilled at helping guide families through dietary and lifestyle changes. Dr. Romero does role-playing with children, which helps them understand the importance of the changes she wants them to make. She also supplies families with tips on how to support their children's new regimen. "I will often recommend that, if possible, a whole family adopt the lifestyle or dietary changes that are prescribed for the child. Then the child will not feel singled-out," Romero explains.
At what age should children be introduced to natural health care? "Ideally we work with the mother even before the child is born. That is when prevention starts," explains Romero. But children of every age can benefit from a natural approach.
What do naturopathic physicians evaluate when searching for a cause of children's ailments?
1. Lifestyle and dietary factors
Many children have food sensitivities, with the most common being a dairy intolerance. "We ask what the child is eating. Many parents will say things like 'every time he eats cheese or milk, I notice more congestion or he gets an infection.'" Romero also will ask the child what he or she thinks is the problem. "Children know a lot," she says.
"Children love whole, natural foods!" adds Jones. "It is often a matter of teaching them about the abundance of options beyond the standard American diet." Parents can supply broad choices of wholesome foods and reduce or eliminate processed, packaged foods. Jones also recommends limiting television usage and getting children involved in playing sports, gymnastics, bicycling, swimming or another form of exercise. "Regular exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy immune system," he says.
2. Environmental factors
Are there new carpets, highly toxic or allergenic materials or pets in the household? Children are very sensitive to toxins or allergens in their environments. Children's immune systems are still developing, so they may react to things that they won't react to when their immune systems become stronger.
3. Stress at home or school
Studies show that children's infections are correlated with stress. "It can be very difficult to make recommendations to parents about parenting skills or their relationships, but it can really help," says Romero. "If people are open to it, we give them options on how to improve their home environment. We have a list of recommended books and Web sites on parenting."
Some activities, such as swimming, can cause "swimming ear" or sinus infections. Naturopathic physicians seek to discover whether any of the child's routine activities are causing or exacerbating a condition.
General parenting skills and a special focus on children with learning difficulties
A good site for finding information about children's health conditions
Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants, by Mary Bove, ND
The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Joseph E. Pizzorno, ND, and Michael Murray, ND
Writer: Sydney Maupin, Staff Writer
Contributors: Maide Romero, ND, LAc; Eric Jones, ND
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