Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Treating Children with Homoeopathy

Our children are our most treasured possessions, or should I say our most valued charges. It is the natural wish of a parent that their child should have the best of everything, including, and especially, health.

By extrapolation, as parents we are anxious that, when our children are ill, they should receive the best treatment.

But what is the best treatment? Who can we turn to, to help us decide whether a given feverish illness is a harmless virus or a dangerous bacterial infection? Is it necessary to ladle paracetamol and antibiotics into the child with the former, in case it turns out to have the latter?

There is definite evidence that the vast majority of childhood fevers are due to viruses. These include obvious sore throats and ear aches as well as the majority of coughs and all colds. Thus, when there are clear features to explain the fever, such as cold-type symptoms and when the child is merely off-colour, as opposed to obviously very ill (delirious, with decreased consciousness, prolonged vomiting, shortness of breath), then the priority is to keep the child comfortable and to encourage fluids to prevent dehydration. Absolute control of fever by regular dosage of paracetamol is not necessary unless the child is known to be prone to fits with fever. The use of antibiotics in these circumstances is not only a waste of time as the infection is not susceptible to antibiotics, but also hazardous as resistant strains of bacteria are likely to arise in the body of the person thus exposed.

Likewise, I would not advocate routine use of homoeopathy in minor illnesses. Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy, felt that it should not be used for trivial symptoms. The child's own immune system should be able to overcome minor illness unaided. Indeed, each time it overcomes an infection, it will store the pattern of that particular infection in its database, so that, if challenged again by the same virus, it will recognise it and prevent a full-blown infection by the production of antibodies.

Children can be susceptible to recurrent or chronic disorders as well as to acute infections. In these cases, homoeopathy can be a great benefit. This is because it treats the chronic problem by stimulating the child's own system to overcome the problem. This is in contrast to conventional medications which tend to treat chronic problems by suppressing symptoms and therefore need to be taken repeatedly in order to keep the problem under control.

Certainly, in my experience as a general practitioner, we have infants with established colic who continue for weeks or months and have to be given recurring doses of medication with every feed to control symptoms. Homoeopathy is a very useful alternative in these circumstances and has the advantage of being tailored to the individual child's symptoms.

It is always inspiring and gratifying to me to treat children with homoeopathy, not only because the children often respond so beautifully but also because of the open-mindedness of the parents who react so instinctively and positively to this gentle yet powerful therapy.

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