Monday, November 14, 2011

Chinese Medicine for my Littlest Patients

Eleanor McLamb, Lutea's littlest fan.
If you are a parent you have probably known the worry, the anxiety, and the absurd exhaustion from sleepless nights up with a sick child.  You have probably made hard decisions about what doctor to see, what medicine to take, and what alternatives to try.  As a mother I've struggled with difficult healthcare decisions for my daughter even as I was studying Chinese Medicine from some of the greatest pediatric acupuncturists in the country.  The question shouldn't be: should I use conventional or natural medicine, but to know when each is appropriate.

When my daughter was three-years-old she became suddenly ill with a fever of 104 and began to have trouble breathing until she began turning purplish-red gasping for breath.  I was not yet a practitioner so I bundled her quickly into the car and rushed her to our acupuncturist, Rachel.  Once in the treatment room, Rachel put in four needles and applied suction cups to her little back and within moments she was breathing normally.  We administered an herbal tincture and by the time we got home her fever was down and she was fast asleep.  I become overwhelmed with gratitude when I think of this incident and saddened thinking of the parents who don't know of this option that might have rushed their child to the emergency room to receive steroids, fever reducers, inhalers, and likely charged far more than the $30 that I paid for the amazing and compassionate service we received that night.  The most gratifying thing for me as an acupuncturist now, is being on the other end and helping children just as my daughter has been helped. 

Of course, not all acupuncture treatment for children is so dramatic.  But in my experience gained from treating many children, they respond even better and more quickly to acupuncture than adults.  This, for me, is the best argument that acupuncture is not placebo.   I see real results everyday with absolutely no side effects.  I talk to parents who are worried that their child would not accept an acupuncture treatment.  To that I respond that the needles I use for children are hair-thin, and if the child is apprehensive I can work just on the child's back so they aren't worried by seeing the needle.  Essential oils are also quite effective for children and I use a wide array with great results.  Cupping, massage and acupressure, gua sha (gentle scraping with a porcelain edge), and even a tuning fork are some of the other methods I use for children.  I also teach parents many of these techniques to do at home. Some of the more common childhood ailments that I have successfully treated include:
  • Nausea and vomiting.  This can be relieved in moments with a few points.  Though care must be taken.  If there is food poisoning or some other toxin, vomiting is an appropriate response.  But if the nausea or vomiting is ongoing or related to a stomach bug or other virus it can be easily remedied with acupuncture and herbs.
  • Upper Respiratory Infection (URI, common cold)  this can be helped easily with acupuncture best at the beginning signs of illness
  • Asthma.  As mentioned above, cupping and a few empirical points can stop an acute attack in its tracks, and regular acupuncture can prevent attacks.  I have seen the seemingly miraculous effect this has for children and the relief it brings to parents as well.
  • Ear Infections.  Ear pain can be eased immediately with acupuncture and recurrent use of antibiotics for repeated infections can be lessened and even stopped.  Some medical literature coming out now even reports that antibiotic use can create a cycle of ear infections.  
  • Night Terrors and other sleep disturbances.  I so frequently hear parents frustrated that their children just won't go to sleep, won't stay asleep, and sometimes wake up screaming from night terrors.  Acupuncture is very effective at leveling out sleep in children and adults.  
  • Chronic Cough.  Walk into any elementary school classroom this time of year and you will often hear a chorus of coughing.  Often this is worse at night.  Chinese Medicine can work almost immediately for this malady.  Try rubbing a little Eucalyptus Radiata or German Chamomile essential oil on the bottoms of the feet of a coughing child.  In mild cases this usually works quickly.
  • Diarrhea, constipation, and "tummy ache".  Herbal remedies work quite well and quickly for this.  Often I can do two points on a child and there is change within an hour.  Hand and foot massage can also work wonders in chronic cases.  This is something the parent can learn quickly and use at home on a daily basis.
These are just the most common. Chinese Medicine can help colic, thrush, teething, strep throat, bed-wetting, allergies, eczema, hives, nosebleeds, and many others.  My daughter has become used to asking for "a treatment" whenever she doesn't feel well.  She just knows that it makes her feel better.  She has also never had a round of antibiotics and never taken a fever reducer.  She also knows that we limit our sugar intake, our dairy intake, and eat fermented foods everyday to stay healthy.  (I will talk more about dietary therapy in a future post.)  

For the record, I greatly value Western medicine.  It has many redeeming qualities.  If I sustain a serious wound, don't take me to an acupuncturist.  I prefer the ER.  If I have a life-threatening infection I will probably take antibiotics.  But all too often, the medications prescribed by MDs for mild conditions are overkill for children.  I liken it to killing a fly with a hammer.  Our children are sacred and beloved to us and we as parents deserve to know our options.  Chinese Medicine isn't the only option, but it is an ancient system of medicine that has many options within it.  It is what my family and many others use as primary health care with great results.  It isn't expensive, it is completely safe, and it doesn't have side effects.  As my friend Todd asks, "When did natural become the alternative?"

No comments: