Which Complementary Therapies are OK for Kids?

Recent studies have shown that more and more parents are turning to complementary wellness methods instead of medical treatments for their kids. Some do it to guard their children’s wellbeing against the side effects of medications, while others have lost faith in their doctors. Whatever your reason for choosing alternative therapies for your children, you should bear in mind that although some seem safe and effective for kids, others are inappropriate or downright dangerous.

According to Dolores Mendelow, MD, clinical assistant professor of paediatrics and communicable diseases at the University of Michigan Medical School. ‘There is a huge place for complementary and alternative medicine in paediatrics. In terms of complementary medicine, we’re using acupuncture, dietary supplementation, and herbal or botanical therapies. Parents can ask doctors if certain alternative therapies will hurt a child. It’s a good opportunity to open up a dialogue about this with your physician. And doctors need to learn more about them.’ It’s important to ask the right questions because all children are different, and so what affects your child may not affect another. That said, there are certain therapies that, generally, get the green light:

1. Honey for a cold: Dr Mendelow asserts, ‘Over-the-counter medicines like Sudafed aren’t helpful for the common cold, but honey and buckwheat are. However, if your child is younger than 12 months old, you should never give them honey. Another effective treatment for colds is eating elderberry fruit, or taking extracts of it, but if your child is on chemotherapy this should be avoided.

2. Acupuncture for migraine: When it comes to treating migraines, acupuncture has a good track record. This alternative therapy also has known benefits in easing nausea symptoms associated with chemotherapy treatments. If you’re considering acupuncture for your child, make sure you look for a practitioner who has lots of experience treating kids.

3. Cranberry for frequent urinary tract infections: Your child may be more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) if he or she has a habit of holding their urine. If your child’s doctor has ruled out an underlying kidney problem, cranberry juice or extracts can be a natural way to prevent the irritating infections.

4. Probiotics for diarrhoea: If taking antibiotics is causing your child to experience diarrhoea, probiotics can be especially helpful. You’ll find these beneficial bacteria in drinks, in foods like yogurt, and in supplement form.

5. Yoga and tai chi for stress relief and anxiety: There is a real connection between the mind and the body which, when tapped into, can do wonderful things for your child’s health. Asthma is a common condition amongst children and, if your child is afflicted by it, he or she may benefit from taking a yoga class. Alongside prescribed medicines, yoga can help asthmatic patients breathe better and remain calm during an attack, in addition to providing general stress reduction. Moreover, research shows tai chi helps reduce the risk of depression and anxiety in teens.

So those are the green-light treatments, but from which therapies does Dr. Mendelow advise parents to stay away?

1. High-velocity chiropractic treatments: In general, chiropractors are great as general practitioners, they do a lot of nutrition counselling, food avoidance, and gentle manipulation,’ Dr. Mendelow notes, but she also believes that forceful “crack the neck” kinds of therapy are inappropriate for kids.

2. Creatine: Bodybuilders often swear by this high-protein supplement but it can harm the kidneys. Therefore, if you have a teenager who has started to lift weights, make sure they avoid creatine.

3. Ma huang: You might turn to this Chinese medicine to control your child’s asthma or boost their athletic performance, but it can lead to heart palpitations and cardiac problems and is considered extremely dangerous for kids.

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