Pediatricians often get a bad rap for always wanting to pull out their prescription pad when kids come in for sick visits.
While some doctors may deserve that kind of reputation, especially if they always prescribe an antibiotic for every runny nose or cough a child might have, most pediatricians aren't like that.
Still, even if they don't prescribe an antibiotic or other drug at the drop of a hat, since they probably do encourage vaccines for kids, most pediatricians likely don't have a reputation for being into holistic or alternative medicines.
That doesn't mean that they don't encourage a lot of natural remedies for many common pediatric problems though.
High fiber diets for constipation, steamy showers for croup, and cool mist humidifiers for colds, are just a few of the more common natural remedies that most pediatricians 'prescribe' on a daily basis.
I remember one pediatrician that I visited during my residency who would commonly prescribe the three S's to his patients when they had a cold - suckers, showers, and soup. Lollipops or suckers might relieve their sore throat, while the steamy shower could help their congestion, and of course, chick soup is a common home remedy for kids with a cold or the flu.
Using home remedies isn't all about Old Wives Tale type home cures, such as putting Vicks or Vaseline on your child's feet when he has a night-time cough or rubbing a nickel on a wart to get rid of it. Common home remedies include many natural remedies that can relieve bothersome symptoms, but also include home treatments with over-the-counter medications for which you simply don't need a prescription.
As with prescriptions, herbal treatments, and vitamins, be sure to tell your pediatrician about all home remedies you have tried or are considering for your child.
Common home remedies that parents should be familiar with might include the use of a:
- Bleach bath - Dilute bleach baths have long been recommended to help children with recurrent skin infections, especially those with hard to control eczema and/or MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections.
- Chicken soup - making homemade chicken soup is a lot easier than most people think. Will it help your kids get better faster? A lot of people think it will, but even if it doesn't, a good bowl of chicken soup will likely make them feel better.
- Neti pot - using a Neti pot is the latest way to do regular nasal irrigation for kids with chronic sinus infections or allergies.
- Sitz bath - a sitz bath is basically a warm water bath that your child sits in for 10 or 15 minutes and can be a good home remedy for young girls with vaginitis or inflammation around their vaginal area, which can be caused by bubble baths, improper wiping, or wearing wet clothes too long after swimming.
- Tincture of time - this is a complicated way of simply saying that you will wait it out until your child gets better on his own. The tincture of time works well for most viral infections, especially for things like the common cold, stomach flu, and even things like warts.
Home Remedies to Avoid
While some home remedies don't do anything, there are some dangerous home remedies that you should actually avoid because they could harm your child, including:
- Some traditional herbal remedies and folk remedies, including Greta, Azarcon, Ghasard, and Ba-baw-san, which may contain lead, and can lead to lead poisoning.
- Honey, which can be contaminated with spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, and can cause botulism should not be given to children under age twelve months old.
- Using rubbing alcohol or cold water as fever reducers, since rubbing alcohol can be absorbed through your child's skin and cold water can cause shivering, which can actually raise your child's temperature..
- Putting butter on burns.
- Using gasoline, kerosene, rubbing alcohol, dog shampoo, or agricultural pesticides to kill head lice, since they can all be toxic.
- Cleaning cuts and scrapes with hydrogen peroxide - use soap and water instead.
- Trying to get out excessive ear wax with ear candles - use over-the-count ear wax removal drops or see your pediatrician for manual removal of the ear wax instead.
- Restricting milk and milk products when your child has a cough or fever - milk won't build up extra mucus when he has a cold or curdle in your child's stomach because of the fever.
- Giving your child soda, fruit juice, or tea when he has diarrhea or vomiting - use Pedialyte, an oral rehydration solution, or something like Gatorade for an older child.
- Giving aspirin to children and teens, since it can be associated with Reye syndrome.