Babies, toddlers and children are all susceptible to becoming ill. Through their social interactions with siblings, friends and other children at day care or school kids are constantly exposed to an array of “bugs”. It is impossible to protect them from the occasional “bug” and childhood illnesses and unfortunately becoming sick is just part of life and growing up. The good news is, although kids can quickly become ill, they can usually also recover fast. Of course this will depend on the child’s constitutional health, the severity of the illness, and some practical ways of treating the illness at the time.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is keenly aware of the importance of treating children and to clear illness or conditions as quickly as possible to avoid any long term health issues or prolonged use of medication. The longer the issues such as eczema, asthma, cough, or constipation exist the longer the time will be needed to resolve them. According to TCM many of the health problems people face later on in life can be directly linked to their health history including illnesses experienced in childhood.
Babies 1 – 2 yrs old
We all inherit our constitutional health from our parents (genetics). Everything that happens during our birth and thereafter will impact on our health. Regardless of the strength of a baby’s Qi and constitution, factors such as a virus or bacterial infection can cause illness early in life and stress a baby’s immune system. This can seriously compromise their ability to be healthy, happy, and thriving babies. Recovery from infections, especially repeated infections, or a sensitive constitution may inhibit their health leading to issues such as colic or reflux. Both are very common conditions that can cause considerable angst for the baby and the family unit. TCM can successfully help treat these conditions or speed up the recovery process, ensuring a healthy and happy baby as soon as possible.
Toddlers 3 – 4 yrs old
As babies grow into toddlers, it is common for imbalances to start occurring and causing various health problems. As children start to eat solids, the digestive system, which according to TCM is slow in developing, can easily become stressed or overworked. This may lead to undigested material in the gut becoming stagnant or blocked, known as “accumulation disorder” in TCM.
Accumulation disorder can cause night restlessness, constipation or affect the lungs. A sluggish digestive tract can cause a build up of phlegm and mucous in the body which can obstruct the breath or turn into a chronic cough.
The skin is also often affected by accumulation disorder. Rose colored cheeks or eczema in the knees and elbow creases or on the face are common signs of this condition.
By the time children turn four or five they have been exposed to and contracted various viruses and bacteria. Often during recovery from one illness another may be contracted which will further debilitate a child’s immune system and constitutional health. Symptoms of respiratory or digestive infections can become very stubborn often seeming to never clear. Constant coughing, nasal discharge and sensitive stomachs are very common symptoms for children and toddlers. If these symptoms do not clear or appear to be cyclical it may be a case of what TCM calls a “lingering pathogen”. The original infection has been somewhat dealt with by natural defenses of the immune system or antibiotics, but some symptoms of the illness remain. It is very important to ensure these lingering symptoms are expelled or cleared to prevent further prolonged health problems for the child. If the development of the digestive or respiratory system is affected by lingering pathogens, it will impact negatively on the child’s wellbeing and possibly cause future health problems.
There is a long history of treating babies, toddlers and children with Traditional Chinese Medicine. When applied by a qualified practitioner it is very safe and non-invasive. For specific conditions the standard forms of treatment are acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and massage. Nutrition and lifestyle are crucial aspects of preventing illness and promoting good health, these are generally addressed in treatments also.
When treating children with acupuncture only a small number of very small and fine needles are used and the needles are generally not retained for very long, if at all. It is kept “short and sweet”, to prevent any discomfort for the child. Often children respond very quickly and only one or a few treatments may be required for remarkable changes to be experienced especially in common conditions such as eczema.
Getting children to take Chinese herbs can be tricky. However dosages are usually very small and at Gardenvale TCM we use granulated herbs, which are easily dissolved into a liquid. If they’re not happy taking them as is, the herbs can be diluted into the child’s favourite drink or sweetened with a bit of honey. For babies a “syringe” or “dropper” can be used with 1-2ml per dose of diluted herbs, similar to giving baby panadol or other medications.