Alternatives to the pink stuff


When your children are unwell, there are ways to make them feel better without resorting to a spoon of medicine, writes JOYCE HICKEY

‘MUMMEEEEE! My tummy hurts. And I have a headache.” “Mummeeeee! I have a cough. And a fever.” “Erdegooglieeyaawaaah” (translation: I have just had my second lot of vaccinations and I feel terrible). Three boys (aged seven, five and four months); three complaints in the same week. One solution: a spoon of pink medicine.

Lee Ni Chinneide, a homeopath who practises at the Elbow Room healthcare centre in Dublin, offered a counter-remedy at a recent open day. Applying the homeopathic, holistic principle of treating the whole person, not just the symptoms, she proposed more individualised methods of temperature control, specifically in childhood illnesses.

Parents’ actions vary: some panic when the child’s temperature is 38 degrees, others don’t get excited until it hits 40. Obviously, said Ni Chinneide, if a child has suspected meningitis or could be in danger, do not delay seeing a doctor. But if their raised temperature – a sign that their immune system is fighting back – is brought on by something more routine, the parents’ observations would determine the remedy.

For example, if the fever is only in the child’s head and has not dispersed through the body, so that their face is red and their hands are cold, and they might be raving, Ni Chinneide would treat them with fast-acting belladonna.

A child with a pulsatilla fever – often when teething – is often weepy and clingy, has a snotty nose and gets sweaty on the side that they are lying on but feels better in fresh air. And an aconite fever comes on suddenly, for example after a shock, or a fright, or bad news.

Regardless of the type of fever the child has, common-sense actions such as stripping them down to their underwear and pressing a cold facecloth to their forehead should help reduce the temperature.

As well as fever treatment, Ni Chinneide outlined the homeopathic remedies that she has found effective in treating general childhood conditions such as colic, “sticky eye”, tummy upset, ear infections and croup, for which children are often prescribed antibiotics or inhalers.

Again, different symptoms determine the response: with colic, some babies scrunch up their knees and respond well to pressure on their tummy while others arch their back and can’t bear their tummy to be touched.

Depending on the symptoms of teething pain – drooling, red cheeks, hand-chewing, snuffles, diarrhoea – she treats babies with pulsatilla, silica or chamomilla, which is sold in a low-dose format as Teetha.

Another popular remedy is arnica, used for shock, nosebleeds, jet lag and in the treatment of strokes, whether caused by clots or bleeds. Many people take arnica tablets to accelerate healing after surgery, and use arnica ointment on bruises, but Ni Chinneide recommends it in tablet, rather than cream, form.

Regardless of whether parents are inclined to use homeopathy, its holistic principles are a lesson in listening to a sick child and observing their symptoms closely. Noting patterns and changes in their general health, sleep pattern, appetite and mood will help to tailor their treatment and ensure the best outcome.