by Amy Rothenberg, ND, DHANP

I recently was blessed to become an aunt, with my younger sister having her first child. This beautiful addition to our family is a wonderful and welcome event. And it allows me, as the doctor in the family, to play a special role. I get to hear and respond to worries and concerns at all hours of the day and night! I hear questions about the baby like, "What should we do about incessant crying? Sleep difficulties? Bothersome rashes? A runny nose?"

I also get questions from the new mother about shifts in her own digestion, problems with breastfeeding, and issues such as moodiness and irrational worry. While they have me on the line, the grandmother or uncle from the "other side" might throw in a question or two about their own health concerns! I am generally quite gracious in these situations and offer advice, referrals, and support.

The ideal baby gift?
When a baby is born to a family member, I debate long and hard about whether to give that family a homeopathic first-aid kit. With new parents in my practice, I go through a similar process deciding whether to recommend that they obtain a kit. At first glance, it seems that every family should have a homeopathic first-aid kit, as it will make giving a remedy at home that much easier. If I am prescribing by telephone for an acute situation, the family will have the remedies right at hand.

But that quick and easy access to homeopathic remedies might not always be the best thing. There is something tempting about "fixing" all the little problems or trying to "nip things in the bud." With new mothers and fathers who have not had the experience of weathering the ups and downs of the first few years of life, I have found that education and encouragement are often times more indicated than homeopathic remedies. This internal debate has led me to the following thoughts about when it's a good idea for parents to prescribe homeopathic remedies for their children in acute health situations-and when it's best to keep the lid on the remedy kit closed.

When not to use homeopathy at home
1. When a situation is severe or life threatening, the best place for the child is with those who are expert at treating emergencies-that is, in the hospital. We cannot be wed to our philosophical beliefs about health care when a child's life is in danger. We can always go back to natural medicine once the child is safe. It is fine, however, to use a homeopathic remedy on the way to the emergency room or while under allopathic care.

2. While your child is under homeopathic constitutional care, any prescribing for acute conditions should be done in consultation with your homeopath. Often times the acute situation can offer the practitioner insight and information about ongoing treatment needed by that child. If parents are quick to give remedies for each set of symptoms, this can deny the practitioner potentially useful information about the way the child either reacted to the remedy or manifests acute illness-both important bits of data for case analysis and long-term follow-up care. This is especially true for the child who is being treated constitutionally for mental or emotional conditions like anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, autistic spectrum disorders, seizure disorders, or any other chronic illness. Successful constitutional treatment for these children may mean that symptoms shift within or toward the physical plane, while more serious elements of the child's mental emotional symptomatology improve. In such cases, the homeopath may counsel the family that the new physical symptoms are not a true acute problem suitable for home treatment, and that enduring them or using non-homeopathic palliative care may offer the best opportunity for overall healing.

3. If you find you are giving acute remedies-the same one or different ones-frequently (e.g., every week or several times per month), it would mean to me that this child had certain patterns of illness and susceptibility that would benefit from constitutional care by a homeopathic professional.

4. If the problem is not long-lasting or severe and will pass on its own, I would not give a homeopathic remedy. Of course, it is difficult to know during the early stages whether an illness is going to be long-lasting. It will not hurt the child to have a cold, a minor cough, a passing skin rash, or to be cranky for a few days. I want all of our children to develop healthy immune systems, something that occasional, not-too-serious viral illnesses help them to do. I also want parents of children in my care to learn how to meet the emotional and physical needs of their children by trying many approaches, not only by giving homeopathic remedies.

5. Lastly, I would not recommend giving homeopathic remedies to siblings of sick children "just so they can have some, too." There are homeopaths who do prescribe prophylactically during an epidemic of say, whooping cough, but that is a matter for another article. Remedies have an effect. The point here is that homeopathic remedies do act; they do have an impact on people. Most of us would not offer our children (or prescribe for our patients) pharmaceutical products to be taken frequently, based on any fleeting symptom. Homeopathic remedies need to be treated with the same sort of respect.

When to treat at home
It's a good idea to prescribe for your children's acute health problems when the following is true:

1. You've tried other natural, gentle approaches and they have not worked.

2. You know that, for the child in question, a particular set of prodromal (early) symptoms always leads to the same problem and you want to catch it early.

3. You are working with a qualified homeopathic practitioner and they recommend it.

4. Your child is not being treated constitutionally and the acute problems are infrequent. Keep in mind that, even when all of the above is true, it is good to offer a remedy only when the symptoms are clear and you can prescribe with at least a degree of confidence.

A balance in prescribing
After reading this, I imagine that many of you will feel guilty, thinking you may have over-prescribed for those you love. Not to worry: it will rarely lead to any severe problems, emotional issues, or toxic, overdose symptoms. The worst that happens is that the overall case becomes muddied or difficult for the homeopath to analyze.

What we are looking for in our recommendations to family and friends is a balanced posture toward the prescribing of homeopathic remedies. Use them carefully when they are indicated and use them well. But you may want to consider putting that homeopathic first-aid kit a little higher on the bathroom shelf, so that you will be less tempted to grab a remedy at the first sign of any sickness.

As to my sister, I will probably wind up giving her that first-aid kit after all, to have on hand and dust off once in a while, when a remedy is really, truly indicated.

Thank you to the National Center for Homeopathy for their permission for us to re-print this article from their October 2004 issue of Homepathy Today. For more information about membership to the NCH or subscribing to their publication, you can contact them at:

National Center for Homeopathy
101 S Whiting Street, Suite 315
Alexandria, VA 22304
(703) 548-7790

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