A Natural Advantage: The Homeopathic Treatment of Children

Kashka Kril-AtkinsI wear two “big” hats, as a homeopath and a mother. Both roles carry the weight of responsibility and influence. As a practitioner, I can empathize with parents who tell me that their biggest fear is worrying about the future and safety of their children. We live in an increasingly complex world where risk assessment is not a simple equation, and so the measure of what is considered “safe,” especially for our children, is critical. I like the simplicity of choice that homeopathic medicine offers parents in the treatment of their children.

“First, Do No Harm”

Hippocrates would have liked Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathic medicine. They both held true to the fundamental principle that physicians should first and foremost “do no harm” in the course of their treatments. In Hahnemann’s treatise The Organon of the Medical Art (6th edition), he holds high expectations for safety standards:

“The highest ideal of cure is the rapid, gentle, and permanent restoration of health; that is, the lifting and annihilation of the disease in its entire extent in the shortest, most reliable, and least disadvantageous way, according to the clearly realizable principles.” (Aphorism 2)

I decided to look up the word “disadvantageous” to see what the modern-day equivalent would be and found the words “detrimental” or “inconvenient.” This gave me pause for thought as I reflected on the luxury of time that most modern families cannot afford. We deeply love our children and want to protect them and keep them safe, but having a sick child is very inconvenient and taking a day off work to care for one is not an easy option.

According to Statistics Canada, one of the most dramatic changes in labour force participation rates has been the increase of mothers with young children. From 1976 to 1990, the percentage of women employed outside the home with children under the age of three grew from 31.7% to a whopping 63%. The 2006 census results diplomatically referred to an alarming trend as the “instability of conjugal union.” In 2006, legally married couples with children made up 34.6% of all families. Only 25 years earlier, in 1981, more than half (55%) of all families were legally married couples with children. While the proportion of traditional families declined, the proportion of single-parent families increased. In 2008, 40.7% of marriages in Canada were projected to end in divorce before the 30th anniversary.

Stats Canada will soon be releasing full results from the 2011 census. Of note, the population of children aged four and under increased by 11% between 2006 and 2011. This is the highest growth rate for this age group since the 1956 to 1961 period, during the baby boom! Add this statistic to the modern family pressures outlined above and we have a health care crisis in the making. Canadian families need safe, effective, and efficient treatment options when dealing with 21st-century childhood illnesses.

The Homeopathic Advantage

We all should be grateful for the miracles of modern medicine – life-saving surgical procedures and advancements in diagnostics are two good examples. As well, more and more Canadians are tuning in to the advantages of homeopathic medicine, especially when it comes to the treatment of children.

According to Health Canada, 71% of Canadians regularly take natural health products, such as vitamins and minerals, herbal products, and homeopathic medicine, because they prefer these natural medicines to conventional allopathic drugs for personal health concerns, or to promote personal health (Health Canada, 2005). As our world becomes increasingly complex, Western medicine is at a loss to meet all the needs of families seeking health care that is accessible, affordable, efficient, and effective. The Western medical paradigm needs to shift in order to be less based on diagnosing disease after it has occurred. Treatment strategies for the most part involve surgery or pharmaceutical therapy carrying a risk of potential harm.

Clinical Psychiatry News recently reported that in Canada, the use of prescription drugs among pediatric outpatients declined significantly between 2002 and 2010, by an average of 2.4 million prescriptions annually. This trend was driven in part by a decrease in the “over prescribing” of antibiotics, which accounted for one quarter of all pediatric prescriptions. The use of prescription cough and cold products also decreased significantly, due to safety concerns. Although this seems like a good news trend, there is growing frustration by parents feeling helpless without alternative advice or resources to care for their kids. Waiting for a bacterial or viral infection to run its natural course can take weeks without intervention. Homeopathic medicine is an ideal option to fill the void, stimulate the body’s innate healing, and speed recovery.

As we look to viable strategies for keeping our children optimally healthy, we should consider an integrative approach to healthcare and avoid thinking of homeopathy as alternative to Western medicine. An integrated approach offers the opportunity for the best of both.

An Integrative Miracle

A young Toronto couple was overjoyed at the birth of their first child, a beautiful baby girl.

Mother and daughter were released from hospital but returned within days when the baby developed jaundice and showed signs of failure to thrive. The baby was described as “floppy like a little rag doll” and would not awaken to feed. It was discovered that the infant had a serious heart defect and would urgently need to undergo major surgery.

One month was spent in hospital and once again the new parents returned home with their daughter. Mom described the time in hospital as a shock. It was extremely difficult for her to see that her baby was often in distress, yelling and failing in response to the “tests and tubes.” At one point, mom’s milk supply decreased in response to the stress and her baby was put on IV. Back at home, despite mom’s best efforts at breast feeding, her baby girl was not gaining weight and again was diagnosed as failing to thrive. Mom recounted that her baby was very distressed and fearful when put on the changing table and quick to cry. The hospital recommended supplementing with formula but her baby was intolerant of formula and developed an itchy, irritating skin eruption. Her face and body were covered in tiny red pimples. She would scratch her skin constantly and tug at her hair in distress. Much to the new mother’s dismay, her baby began to spit up large amounts of breast milk each time she fed. After all her daughter had been through, she was now at risk of dehydration. Her skin was extremely dry, so dry it had the appearance of parchment.

At three months, the baby appeared thin and weak. She cried often for the breast and seemed to have an insatiable appetite. She would feed, spit up, cry, and feed again in an exhausting cycle.

The family then turned to homeopathic treatment. The infant immediately responded to Aconite Napellus and showed signs of improvement. Mom reported that her daughter was more content and sleeping better. Over the following month, spitting up reduced in frequency and quantity, and her urine and stool became more frequent, with a normalized colour and quantity. The baby gained weight and began to fill out. Her skin rash cleared. At one point in the treatment, the surgical incision began to show signs of infection, oozed pus and blood, and began to thicken. Although Silica was well indicated as the ‘second prescription’, it was potentially contraindicated due to the nature of the recent surgery. The infant continued homeopathic treatment in tandem with antibiotics and topical application of diluted calendula. Mom responded extremely well to Sepia.

The family also added osteopathic treatment to the baby’s wholistic care. Osteopathy, as defined by the Canadian College of Osteopathy, is “a natural medicine which aims to restore function in the body by treating the causes of pain and imbalance. To achieve this goal the … Practitioner relies on the quality and finesse of his/her palpation and works with the position, mobility and quality of the tissues.”

Our “integrative miracle” baby recently celebrated her six-month birthday and delights in charming everyone with her smiling eyes and recently sprouted two first teeth.

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