In this modern day and age, going back to basics is all the rage. Pediatrician and natural-medicine practitioner Cricket Palanca-Chen, M.D., fields some of your FAQs.
1. “Are there natural remedies for some illnesses common in children?” It’s a misconception that cough, fever, and cold are the disease; they are merely symptoms. They are your body’s ways of purging. Cough can be caused by asthma, changes in humidity and temperature, and irritants such as dust and molds at home. It can also be brought about by painting and construction projects, which cause the body to create more phlegm which traps the irritants. Don’t give your child cough suppressants; instead, give him something to help expectorate phlegm.
If the cough comes with fever, then it is an infection and would require medicine. Fever is our body’s way of killing germs inside the body. It is not the enemy. Your body increases its thermostat — its central temperature — to fry the germs and prevent them from multiplying. If you kill the fever, the bacteria would multiply and the illness would be prolonged because your body’s defense mechanism is down. However, if the fever is very high, give your child paracetamol to prevent convulsions. To bring the fever down, you can also give sponge baths or foods that are cooling.
When your child has a cold, he has so much cold energy or lamig in his body, as they say in traditional Chinese medicine. Anything warming is very helpful, such as steaming, wrapping a scarf or a blanket around him, or applying a cold rub such as Vicks on the throat area to increase blood circulation. You can also apply a warming oil on the area and cover it with a handkerchief if he has a sore throat or is paos. Feed your child with hot soup with lots of garlic, onion, and ginger, or chicken noodle soup with spices. Don’t give him milk because it increases phlegm, makes the mucus stickier, and makes the throat more painful. Don’t give him sugary foods, too, because they form pus in the throat.
2. “My child’s pediatrician likes to administer antibiotics whenever my three-year-old daughter has a stubborn cough. Although I trust her, I am a little hesitant about giving my daughter an antibiotic because I feel it might be too strong for her. What are your thoughts about this?” As mentioned previously, coughing is a useful thing. We give antibiotics only if we’re very certain that the cough is caused by bacteria. The cough is bacterial if it is accompanied by high-grade fever that lasts for more than three to five days, which may also cause the child to lose appetite and sleep for long hours.
On the other hand, if the cough is viral, the fever usually lasts no more than three days, after which the child should start to get better on his own. Viral infections are very self-limited. You can wait them out without having to take medicines — even antibiotics will not help.
You may think, though, that your child is getting better because of the one-week antibiotic medication, but in truth, it’s her body healing itself. Homeopathic remedies such as those mentioned earlier support the healing process or strengthen the child’s defenses.