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Choosing homeopathy for children

There are so many choices to make as parents these days. Natural childbirth or not? To nurse or bottle feed? Cloth diapers or disposable? Family bed or crib? How many years between children? What type of preschool or schooling? The choices and options for many families in our times are endless. So, too, for the kind of medical care to use. How much is safe to treat at home? When is it imperative to get the opinion of a trained medical professional? What if my partner and I don't agree?
     In my last 16 years of practice I have had the pleasure of working with many families, offering natural medicine choices for health care issues. Some patients come to me already certain they want to go the natural way. Others come in not really knowing the type of work I do as a naturopathic physician specializing in homeopathy. But they know someone who was helped with a similar problem, so they want the same "cure." Still others arrive quite skeptical, having been disappointed by previous therapies and attempts to help their child.
     With homeopathy we can offer a non-toxic, effective, and inexpensive approach to first-aid, acute, and chronic health issues that arise in the course of raising a family.

First-aid and acute problems
For first-aid and acute conditions, in the vast majority of situations, there are a limited number of homeopathic remedies that would be considered. Remedies that are used over and over again include: Aconite, Belladonna, Pulsatilla, Chamomilla, Sulphur, Arnica, Mercurius, and Arsenicum album. I truly do not know where I would be as a physician and as a mother without these dear friends in the medicine cabinet.
     Thankfully, there are wonderful books on acute prescribing (available through the NCH*), written in a way that enables a parent to choose the correct remedy for things like bee stings, sore throats, teething, and diarrhea. Most of these books will also caution parents as to when it is essential to seek further medical care. No one wants to put a child at risk because of a philosophical belief in natural treatment. There is a time and a place for all types of medicine.

Chronic illness
For children with chronic illness, constitutional homeopathy offers one type of approach that addresses the underlying causes of the illness and hopefully presents solutions to difficult physical, emotional, behavioral, and psychological problems. In constitutional treatment (for both children and adults), we give a homeopathic remedy for the whole person—their physical, mental, and emotional state.
     I spend a fair amount of time trying to help people understand what it is I do and how the homeopath works. I take as much time as is necessary for the parent to learn that all aspects of the child will be important to me. I need to understand not just the particular diagnosis, but also how they experience their problem in all the minute details. I need to understand little things, like what and how they eat and how they sleep; things related to temperament and personality, like how they behave with new children or if they're more of a leader or a follower. I explain how I will be interested in the mother's pregnancy and in the child's earliest months, their development as well as their experience of school and their social lives.
     We try to put the child's illnesses into the context of the rest of their lives and understand them in a complete way. Naturally, I will be observing the relationship between parent and child, how clingy they are, how they respond to limit-setting, how they communicate with each other—all of these are important to prescribing the correct remedy to help the child with whatever complaint caused the parent to make the appointment.
     For this sort of constitutional care, it is good to have an objective person prescribe (i.e., not the parent!) and to follow the child over time. During constitutional care, some homeopaths will ask you not to treat your child at home for first-aid or acute conditions so as not to interfere with their treatment—other homeopaths may feel fine about home care.
     So whether your child is prone to first-aid or acute illnesses or has a more chronic disease, having homeopathy more available than ever before, gives many families the choice of using this safe and effective approach.

Remember your ABCs
"I truly do not know where I'd be as a ... mother without these dear friends in the medicine cabinet," says Dr. Rothenberg. And moms and dads who've raised their children using homeopathic remedies agree whole-heartedly!
     English homeopath Dr. John H. Clarke spoke of the "ABCs of childhood"—three remedies that parents would not want to be without—Aconite, Belladonna, and Chamomilla.

Aconite: "When in fright, take Aconite!" This is a good way to remember one of the key features of Aconite. The symptoms come on suddenly, perhaps after a frightening experience or after exposure to cold, dry winds. The child is usually anxious, restless, and fearful. They feel better in the open air, and feel worse at night, in a warm room, or lying on the painful side. Aconite can be useful for any number of childhood conditions, including the early stages of a cold, croup, diarrhea, and ear infections, if the symptoms fit.

Belladonna: Think of Belladonna when the illness comes on violently and suddenly. The child's face is typically red and hot. They may be feverish with dilated pupils; the skin is dry. They are usually restless and their pulse is pounding. They are worse from lying down, from touch or jarring of the bed, and from noise. Belladonna can be used for any childhood condition where the unique symptoms of Belladonna are present.

Chamomilla: Remember Chamomilla for the sick child who is cross, irritable, and cannot be easily soothed. For example, they may ask for a toy, then immediately fling it down after you give it to them. They want to be carried around. They may be wild with pain; their extreme reaction may seem out of proportion to their illness. Often, one cheek is red, while the other is pale. They are worse at night. Chamomilla has helped many children through bouts of colic, teething, ear infections, diarrhea, and more.

Pulsatilla: Along with the ABCs above, most parents would not want to be without this remedy. Think of Pulsatilla when a sick child seems particularly weepy, sensitive, and wants sympathy and attention. They tend to be thirstless, and they prefer being in the open air and moving about. Their symptoms may be changeable.

*     NCH members receive a 10% discount on: Homeopathic Medicine
at Home
, by M. Panos and J. Heimlich; The Complete Homeopathy Handbook, by M. Castro; Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines, by D. Ullman and S. Cummings; The Family Guide to Homeopathy, by A. Lockie.

About the author:
Amy Rothenberg, ND, DHANP, is the editor of the New England Journal of Homeopathy and teaches through the New England School of Homeopathy. Their two-year certificate course in Massachusetts will begin in November. See for further details or for information about other articles Dr. Rothenberg has written.

Amy Rothenberg, ND, DHANP, with daughter Sophie Herscu, 12, at NCH Summer School last June.