ControverSunday: Traditional and Natural Medicines for Kids

Hello, it’s Sunday again!

Also, September, I am not to happy with you. Just needed to get the off my chest.

Okay, so if you are sitting there thinking “What the heck is ControverSunday?” then go check out the ControverSunday page I put together (with a lot of copying and pasting from Perpetua’s ControverSunday page; the original). And to answer your first question, yes, please join in!

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Ramble Ramble

So in my “about me” page I state that I am a ‘preferer of natural things’. (Yes, I know preferer is not a word, but I like to make up words. Humor me.). This is applies to food, materials used to make toys, body care products, ect. ect. It also applies to medicine. Especially for kids.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have some wonderful, life saving and absolutely essential tools in our traditional medicine tool kit. We have had a vaccination ContoverSunday before, and while the ‘extra’ stuff in the vaccine and how close and often give those shots to our kids makes me somewhat uncomfortable, I have no doubt in my mind that vaccinations saved millions and millions of lives.

Antibiotics are no different. They are truly an amazing category of medicine and without them…. well not good. But like vaccines I am somewhat uncomfortable with the way they are used in our society. Especially for kids. This feeling I have is 100% informed by personal experience. I had A LOT of infections when I was a kid. Ear, tonsillitis, bladder and sinus. I drank down that banana flavoured liquid a lot. My mother probably has a better perspective on this and maybe it wasn’t all that out of line with what most kids experience, but it seems to me that I was sick and taking antibiotics really often.

I am pretty sure I have written about this part of the story before on this blog, so I will do a coles notes version now. When I was in University I had a sinus infection about once every 3-4 months. For a couple years straight. And then. Someone, I can’t remember who, suggested I take probiotic supplements. That is an increased concentration of the bacteria in yogurt, its purpose is to repopulate your gut with good bacteria and thereby increasing your immune system strength. Viola- not one sinus infection since. I can’t believe that for years doctors just kept on writing me prescriptions for antibiotics and I kept getting sick and not one knew enough about ‘natural’ approaches to suggest something so simple and safe.

Audrey has been taking ‘infant’ probiotics since she was 3 months old. And I am a BIG believer in them.

So I am all for natural remedies for kids. In addition to Audrey’s probiotics, we have also given her a bunch of those homeopathic remedies. Teething, colic, ear ache, ect. I have no idea if they ‘worked’ or she just got better. But our family doctor’s Dad was a homeopathic doctor and she says she had homeopathic remedies all the time as a kid and they seemed to work. At the least they cause no harm.

Now that can’t be said for all natural remedies, I am very aware that just because it is ‘natural’ does not mean it is safe. Many herbs can have a very big impact on your system and if they class with a prescription drug you are taking or if you take then in incorrect doses- not good. But that is also why I STRONGLY believe they should be regulated and brought into the traditional health care system. I believe doctors should know about them and use them, rather then you having to go and see a separate naturopathic doctor. I believe our health care system needs to embrace, study, understand and properly administer natural supplements along with traditional medicines, where appropriate. I know this is unlike, what with the power of drug companies. But it is still my belief.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I don’t like giving Audrey medicine if I can avoid it. We, under close doctor supervision, waited out her first ear infection, because her fever was only very mild and we wanted to avoid antibiotics if possible unless she really needed them. I do believe that we need to be more conservative with our use of medicines so kids can build strong immune systems.

I have one exception. Advil. Remember in my topic announcement I asked if you were ‘fast and easy with the pediatric advil’? I was referring to myself. And it is something that both my husband and I feel great internal conflict over. Great internal conflict. We give Audrey advil too much. I will admit that. I am sure she doesn’t need it as often as we give it to her. But here is the thing. (Not an excuse, just an honest explanation of our thought process). Teething sucks. And those teeth just don’t stop coming. And when she is really worked up we can’t know for sure if she is in pain or if she is just grumpy because, well, she is a toddler. (Same thing for when she was an infant.) So we err on the side of ‘she is probably hurting’ and give her the advil. Don’t worry, it is not a daily thing. But just often enough that I feel guilty about it (ah parenthood). I know we shouldn’t. We are trying to teach her how to say “ow” and explain what that means so maybe we can understand when she is really in pain or not. I don’t know.

But I have confessed now so I feel better.

So, overall, I like to try ‘natural approaches’, even if it is just a bowl of homemade chicken soup, before we go for the medicines. But, if medicines are necessary, then we go for it. Thank goodness we have those options. But I approach it all with some skepticism. After all, a healthy dose of skepticism is good for us all, I think.

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11 responses to “ControverSunday: Traditional and Natural Medicines for Kids

  1. Perpetua September 19, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I am going to request a follow-up post: what are “infant probiotics?” I’ve honestly never heard of it! I know what it means for adults, but do you give kids the same stuff in smaller doses? I seek natural wisdom. 🙂

    I tend to have the same feelings about antibiotics: they are fantastic, and useful, but MAN, do they mess a kid up. My brother had to be on a course of antibiotics as a very young infant due to a (hospital-based) infection, and then my mom had to feed him what was essentially powdered bacteria because his entire digestive tract was completely wiped clean. Not good. It took E about a month to get his poops back on track after an ear infection, which we treated with antibiotics because, a) it was his first one and I panicked, and b) his fever was over 103. I am definitely open to hearing more about the natural way. 🙂

    • amoment2think September 19, 2010 at 12:14 pm

      You know that powdered bacteria that your Mom fed your brother? Those were probably probiotics.

      I have seen ‘infant’, ‘toddler’, ‘kid’ and ‘adult’ versions of probiotics. I believe they are slightly different strains of bacteria as well as being different doses. Udo’s Choice makes them, as does Sisu. They come either in caplets that you break or powder that you put into some kind of liquid and then feed your kid. Most health food stores should sell them and they should be refrigerated. Don’t buy them if they aren’t refrigerated. Udo’s costs and arm and a leg, but Sisu is more reasonable.

      Here are some links:
      http://www.sisu.com/sisu/products/product.jsp?category=1002&sub=1003&id=227
      http://www.florahealth.com/flora/home/USA/Products/TGU9.htm#61964

      Probiotics do wonders, in my opinion, both for post antibiotic replenishing of bacteria, but also for digestion and overall immune system.

  2. Lex September 19, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I totally agree with you that natural remedies should be incorporated into the healthcare system. But, alas, that just makes too much sense for our doctors to even take into consideration, doesn’t it?!

  3. Ginger September 19, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I need to get on this probiotic thing. Seriously, both for me and Jackson, I’m intrigued. I do wish more doctors incorporated natural options into their suggestions more–I’m lucky to have a pediatrician who has SOME knowledge in that area, so she recommends some stuff, but heck, even for me, I wish there was more cross over.

    I have a healthy skeptisism about drugs and medications like you–while believing completely that at times they are the best option. I think the over prescribing of antibiotics is a real problem in our western medical culture, but also think they’re sometimes a necessary evil. There are no easy choices here in my opinion. This is one area where I’m much more analytical and slow to decide than in many other of my parenting decisions, where I’m more apt to just go with my gut.

    Anyway, I said a lot of the same things you said, but I did post:
    http://rambleramble.com/2010/09/19/controversunday-better-living-through-chemistry/

  4. Brooke September 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I have two doctors who are MD/NDs. I have a love hate relationship with the natural/western medicine stuff. I’ve spent a literal fortune in supplements when I knew I was sick but had no diagnosis. A FORTUNE. Kidney supplements, probiotics, HCL, adrenal support, Melatonin, Green tea extract. I even put neem oil in my ears to stop the dizziness. Guess what? It didn’t work. I get the tendency to want the natural stuff, but I also think that opinion is a luxury of not being sick. When my dad had cancer, I was grateful for the incredibly toxic chemotherapy. And I am more than happy for the high dose antibiotics I’ve been on for a year straight, even if they mess up my stomach.

    As for Kellen, I’m also incredibly thankful for antibiotics for his ear infections. I had ear problems as a child and waiting out an ear infection isn’t a pleasant experience. Kellen also wakes up nearly every hour with said infections. Given that sleep is one of the most important healing tools for myself, I’m happy to give my kid antibiotics so that we all don’t have to suffer his hell.

    • amoment2think September 19, 2010 at 8:43 pm

      Brooke, I think you bring up two really good points. First, that there is certainly that over marketing/over promising aspect of some natural remedies. Let’s be honest, if old fashion herbs were all people needed then the drugs and therapies we have now wouldn’t have been invented. I believe that natural remedies can be helpful, but they can take people for a ride, in part because they are so poorly regulated. And I agree, if you are really sick then they are needed. But I do think they can be helpful in for mild illnesses and I do think drugs are over prescribed. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t good reason to give your kid antibiotics for a serious ear infection. If a kid is sick they are sick. But when it’s mild and/or it’s something preventative like
      probiotics, I am all for giving the natural remedies a shot. I don’t believe natural remedies should ever be a replacement for a proper diagnosis or needed traditional medical care. But I do think they can be complimentary.

  5. Amber September 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    I think – based only on my own experience and my experience with my kids – that doctors are much less fast and loose with the antibiotics than they used to be. In 5 1/2 years with my daughter, and 2 years with my son, one kid has been on one round of antibiotics. Whereas I know I was on them a whole lot more often than that, as I suspect many of us were. Fear of superbugs has led to avoiding them.

    I think that’s a good thing. I’ve had life-saving antibiotics myself – when I had pneumonia, for instance, no one ever felt my life was in danger. 100 years ago? Different story. But when someone has the flu, they won’t do any good anyway and can interfere with all the ‘good’ bacteria doing its work. So save them for when they’re needed.

    But I am totally fast and loose with the baby Advil, too. When my kids have irritable, cranky, non-sleeping nights it’s the only thing that seems to help. And we all need our rest, right?

  6. shasta September 20, 2010 at 9:23 am

    I swear by baby Tylenol. I will play that card ANY day. And thank you for reminding me about infant probiotics. Definitely need to make a trip to the health food store.

  7. Megan September 21, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Hmm, you’ve definitely got me thinking more about the natural stuff, like maybe I should not be so scared of it and do my research. And, I love the idea of more homeopathic remedies being blended into the health care system.

    I think it’s smart to not go crazy with antibiotics, but I will certainly do it if I feel it’s necessary. Luckily, Charlotte has not had any infections thus far. I am in the EXACT same place as you with the baby, well, Tylenol, in my case. I know we are a little too fast and loose, as you say with it. Like, she’s *probably* got a tooth coming in because she’s cranky as HELL, so we’ll give her some. I also feel guilty. I’m trying to be more cautious. But, like you it’s not every day by any means, nor am I lax about the dosing. I am always careful.

  8. clara September 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I missed this one. I was going to post, too. Oh well.

    I too had a lot of antibiotics when I was a kid. I even had prescription antibiotics for acne when I was a teen. Eek! But it was all non-penicillin because I’m allergic. Anyway. My older son is 4 and has never had an antibiotic. My younger one had his first dose when he was a week old and had an incredibly awful case of impetigo (bacterial skin infection). Overall they are healthy kids.

    I have heard that story, about the probiotics, from a lot of friends who had recurrent infections. I think that in years to come, more docs will be recommending probiotics to people, because they seem to be just figuring out/admitting the link between gut health and overall health. I started taking them when I saw a naturopath a few years ago. (that is a story in and of itself) I boost my dose if I’m on antibiotics or when we have gut issues in our house.

    I have given my kids a lot of ibuprofen. I figure If they’re in pain, I ought to relieve it. And they are HARD teethers. Frozen bagel wasn’t going to cut it for these guys. But you know, for all the ibuprofen you’re giving now, in a year you’ll have forgotten because A will have all her teeth and she won’t need it anymore. It’s a blip on the map, really, IMO. No guilt!

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