This article first appeared in the Homeschool Journey newsletter, May 2005
Here are a few things for parents to consider when their children are ill. It is based, in part, on what we do in our family, as well as on my study of anthroposophical ideas around health. The fact that my husband is a practicing homeopath has something to do with it too!
Rest, rest, rest - rest and sleep are the most important parts of the healing process. Too many parents say things like “I can’t get him to stay in bed” - well, you need to figure out how you can! Being up and about, even if it’s “only in the house” is no substitute for bed rest, especially if the child has or has had a fever. After the fever goes, the child should still be kept quiet for a day or two. Quiet, peace and bed rest are essential for the body to heal.
Have a box or a bag of interesting playthings put away for sick days. Fill it with Playdoh, buttons, wooden beads to string, an etch-a-sketch, pipe cleaners, beeswax, travel activity books, picture books... things that don’t get played with at other times.
Help being in bed be pleasant - perhaps make up a bed on the couch so the child doesn’t feel lonely. If your household is very busy it might be wiser to leave the child in her bedroom. Maybe one of the younger children can act as messenger, fetching drinks of water and books and requests for attention. Put some lavender essential oil on the pillow, keep lights dim and spend time reading aloud to the ill child.
Make sure the ill child drinks a lot, although some have a real aversion to this. See if there’s a preference for cold or hot drinks. Some children who refuse water or tea will drink lemonade or some sort of broth. Flush out the child’s system by ensuring he drinks enough.
No baths or showers for a sick child, especially if there’s an ear infection, sore throat or chest complaint. Get over this American obsession (those of you who are American!) with daily bathing - getting wet when you’re ill is not a good idea!
No TV, computer or videos for ill children. This may seem harsh because it may be “the only way” you can keep her still, but you’ll have to figure out something else. The nervous energy produced by children watching electronic media is not conducive to healing.
Here are a few homeopathic remedies for you to try. I suggest you use a 30c potency. Give one, wait 15 minutes and if there’s no change, either for better or worse, give another up to 4 doses in one hour. If nothing happens after that wait another hour and try something else. It’s an especially good sign if the child falls asleep after the remedy.
- Chamomilla: for teething, toothache, sore throats. Characterized by impatience, anger and fussiness - babies want to be carried, demand a toy, then throw it across the room. Often one check is red, the other pale.
- Pulsatilla: sore throats, ear ache, tummy ache, especially with yellow discharges. Child is all soft and sweet and elicits sympathy in those around her. Thirstless. Likes to be wrapped up warmly in a cold room but suffers from being too warm.
- Aconite: whatever the physical complaint may be, the main thing about this remedy is extreme fear late at night and paleness. Often the complaint follows time spent outside in the wind.
- Belladonna: this remedy is similar to Aconite in terms of intensity and rapid onset - and sometimes fear as well - but it is characterized by redness. Often the pupils are dilated. For those of you who are breastfeeding, it’s very good for mastitis, especially is the breast is streaked with red. Pulsatilla is also often indicated for mastitis as is the following remedy:
- Bryonia: think of a grumpy bear and you get a picture of the person who needs Bryonia. This is a great flu remedy, indicated when the person is grumpy, irritable, wants to be left alone and holds the sore or painful part. They have a great thirst for cold water, but at long intervals.
- Gelsemium: is another flu remedy, but has a slower onset than Bryonia and is not so cranky. Aching!
A fabulous remedy to have on hand is Oscillococcinum (made by Boiron): take it at the first signs of fluishness (once the illness takes hold it doesn’t usually work).
Don’t take Tiger’s balm or anything with camphor or tea-tree in it when using homeopathy. Such substances can make the remedies inert. Store your homeopathic remedies well away from these things.
Many children like herb teas with a bit of honey when they’re ill. Chamomile is good for sleeplessness though, if one drinks too much of it, it can produce the opposite effect; peppermint or fennel for sore tummies; valerian for headache (though I have yet to meet a child who will touch it!); echinacea for fever and sore throat; lemon balm (Melissa) is very soothing and has a pleasant taste.
If you can get it, Weleda, and possibly other anthroposophical pharmaceutical companies, make a wonderful preparation of Avena Sativa (oats). Put a few drops in water and give to anybody who is nervous, cranky or overexcited.
I could go on and on... I’ll stop here and just say that there are so many wonderful books available on herbalism, homeopathy and natural health it’s impossible to make any recommendations. I will say, though, that books on homeopathy by either Miranda Castro or Dana Ullman are very good.
Please remember, folks, that the above recommendations are just suggestions and are not a substitute for the care of a licensed medical practitioner!