It’s a fact of life: despite how much we protect our babies and toddlers, they will get sick. It’s not always a bad thing. Pediatricians have been telling us for years that after our body have been through an illness, it becomes stronger. Here are some common ills our kids will endure plus treatments options and ways that may help the sickness from recurring.
Treatments for babies
Colic. This condition is most common in the first three months of life where the baby cries a lot but nothing is physically wrong. “Treatment is swaddling, feeding, burping and sometimes doing changes in formula,” says Dr. Arnel Hechanova, pediatrician at Crystal Run Healthcare in Middletown. Be attentive to diet.
“Make sure your child has good probiotics so the gut flora (healthy bacteria) is healthy, that he’s hydrated properly and the bowels are moving regularly,” said Dr. Sam Schikowitz of Whole Family Medicine in Gardiner. If the mom is breastfeeding, she may be eating something that is aggravating to the baby’s system so getting on a hypoallergenic diet may be helpful. If persistent, then see a doctor.
Dr. Steven Pavia, chiropractor in Monroe says “We look at nerves under the digestive system and work with the muscles around the diaphragm which can sometimes be involved.” Sometimes there’s a muscle spasm near the abdominal cavity which can be alleviated by chiropractic work.
Constipation. Paying attention to nutrition is one way to make sure the baby’s body is functioning properly. “Probiotics like yogurt are good and vitamin D and calcium are important because vitamin D promotes calcium absorption which you need for the bones,” said Joanne DiCesare, holistic health coach.
“Constipation is quite normal and is one of the most common calls we get as pediatricians, mostly because the baby is not getting enough fluids or fibers in his diet and some kids are picky eaters and are not getting a variety of fruits and vegetables,” said Hechanova. “It is normal for babies to go a few days without [a BM] and it is normal for them to strain and push which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re constipated; it’s only a problem when it causes discomfort,” says Hechanova. Usually trying lots of fluids and fibers resolves the issue but in some cases, medications are used.
Fevers. “Safe temperatures depend on the age of the child,” says Schikowitz. Know the guidelines and do not rush to medicate. “Reduce the fever based on if the child is unhappy or it’s interfering with sleep, otherwise, let the fever do its thing because it is part of a process that’s helping the body fight off the infection,” he adds. Acetaminophen works but he prefers tepid sponge baths and cool drinks.
Sometimes medical evaluation is necessary, Hechanova explains, if there’s fever in newborns. In that case, “we have to admit him for a workup including a blood sample, urine sample and cerebral spinal fluid.”
Ear infections. “Factors that have been identified to promote ear infections include being exposed to somebody sick, secondhand cigarette smoking and lying down while being fed from the bottle,” says Hechanova. By recognizing the triggers, you can avoid them.
“Often the ear infection is cured permanently by avoiding specific foods that irritate the linings of the mucus membranes,” says Dr. Schikowitz. Breastfeeding also give babies immune-boosting substances to fend off infections. “See a doctor if your kid has a fever and is tugging his ear, but realize that most ear infections are not treatable by antibiotics and are better treated naturally and conservatively,” Schikowitz notes.
Chiropractic care, Dr. Pavia adds, has been shown to help drain sinuses and stimulate the cleansing function of the lymphatic system.
Staying well. “A newborn’s immune system has not been exposed to any of the viruses or bacteria even though breast milk provides some antibodies, but their system is not as strong as older kids,” Hechanova explains. Know that it’s not unusual for babies to get sick. “Make sure they are balanced in terms of exercise, nutrition and relationships,” says DiCesare.
Boosting your child’s immune system with certain foods or vitamins is important, but also caring for your child in a holistic manner can improve their overall health just as much. DiCesare says, “It’s important that after a child is born that he or she be touched and massaged. Studies show they’ll have proper weight gain, improved sleep, greater test scores and signs of relief from gas and constipation.”
Treatments for Toddlers
Allergies: Identifying household nuisances can alleviate pesky allergies. “Install air filters and get hypoallergenic coating or coverings for the bed and pillows,” says Dr. Schikowitz.
As kids get older and have more exposures, allergies can worsen. “The vegetarian lifestyle reduces susceptibility to allergies and hay fever. Eliminating sugar and processed food, which has sugar, can help,” says DiCesare. If you eat a lot of carbohydrates, sugar and processed food, the idea is you’re more prone to infection. “Artificial food coloring should be eliminated because it causes behavioral issues in children like distraction and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,” she adds.
If traditional measures like eating an anti-inflammatory diet with more vegetables and less beef doesn’t work, doctors may do a skin prick test to determine a specific allergy. “Be careful about using a chronic decongestant like antihistamine because they can be addictive, and using too many anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and acetaminophen can produce inflammatory molecules and shift the inflammation,” says Dr. Schikowitz.
There are some viable alternative methods if a child does not respond to prescription medicines. “For allergies, some specific bioflavonoids [Vitamin P complex] work better than natural treatments; nitrochalcone is absorbed well and the same with vitamin C and sometimes herbs,” says Dr. Schikowitz. Some kids have a stronger pattern of symptoms where their eyes are red, swollen and inflamed and others have low energy and a runny nose so treat each child differently. “You can use one of the nasal irrigations out there like a netty pot or Nasopure which you can do long-term or throughout the allergy season to remove the pollens and allergens,” he notes.
Common Cold: There are wonderful alternative remedies for the common cold. “I do the warming sock treatment where you warm the child up, put cold socks on and it is amazing and helpful; kids get over the colds by the next day and it boosts their immune system,” says Dr. Schikowitz. Herbs and vitamin C are also beneficial, and don’t forget to “make sure the kids are washing their hands, eating a wholesome diet and getting exercise,” he says.
See Dr. Schikowitz' "cold sock treatment" for nasal congestion.
For kids with reflux-like colic there can be a diaphragm spasm going on and a special tool, called an activator, is used. “It’s not your typical chiropractic adjustment where there’s twisting and manual manipulation. We use an instrument that provides a force into the body, usually the muscles or the spine, and it creates a gentle adjustment,” says Dr. Pavia.
Ear Infections: Like babies, ear infections are common in toddlers. Parents who may be contemplating tubes in the ears, should think twice. “Tubes are not known to reduce the incidence of the infections, just the drainage, so we find that if you take care of the baby in certain areas of the spine, the nervous system will take care of the resistance or the immune system of the body,” says Dr. Pavia. This way, the body’s ability to heal itself or combat infection improves. “In the cervical spine and neck, there are nerves that directly relate to the ear canal, throat, sinus cavities, eustachian tubes and other areas that involve the ears, nose and throat,” he adds.
Vaccinations are another wonderful tool that help the body create antibodies which then fight disease. “Parents see controversies for vaccines and some forego vaccinations but when they do, they’re missing out on a key step in boosting their child’s immune system,” says Dr. Hechanova.
A balanced diet and rest are important. “Your body needs down time to regenerate so it can fight diseases,” says Hechanova. Check with your doctor about vitamins: particularly B, C and D. DiCesare sums it up this way, “Balancing exercise, nutrition and relationships creates healthy kids.”
Jamie Lober writes frequently on pediatric health topics and
women’s issues. Reach her at Jamie@getpinkpower.com.