Managing Childhood Asthma with Holistic Medicine
by Randall Neustaedter OMD (California, U.S.A.)
Dramatic Increase in childhood asthma
What is causing the rising incidence of children's asthma? Could it be the increasing number of vaccines given to children?
The incidence of asthma has steadily increased in the modern era since the introduction of vaccines. During the period 1980 through 1989 the prevalence rate of self-reported asthma in the United States increased 38 percent, and the death rate for asthma increased 46 percent (Centers for Disease Control, 1992). In the five years from 1985 through 1990, projected estimates for asthma's medical costs increased 53 percent. The total estimated cost of asthma rose from $4.5 billion to $6.2 billion, or 1 percent of all US health-care costs (Weiss et al., 1992). In other parts of the world as many as 30 percent of children suffer from asthma, and the rate of asthma increases by 50 percent every decade. This dramatic increase has been attributed to increased exposure to environmental pollutants, and to the toxic effect of asthma medications themselves, but the increasing burden on the immune system caused by vaccines cannot be ignored.
Several clinical studies have confirmed an association between vaccination and asthma. A survey conducted by the National Vaccine Information Center and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that children who received vaccines were twice as likely to develop asthma compared to children who did not receive any vaccines (Enriquez et al., 2005). That study included 515 unvaccinated children and 662 vaccinated children. A team of New Zealand researchers followed 1,265 children born in 1977. Of the children who were vaccinated 23 percent had asthma episodes. A total of 23 children did not receive the DTP vaccines, and none of them developed asthma (Kemp et al., 1997). A study in Great Britain produced similar findings that associated asthma with the pertussis vaccine. In that study 243 children received the vaccine and 26 of them later developed asthma (10.7 percent), compared to only 4 of the 203 children who had never received the pertussis vaccine (2 percent). The relative risk of developing asthma from the pertussis vaccine was 5.4. Additionally, of the 91 children who received no vaccines at all, only one had asthma. Therefore the risk of developing asthma was about one percent in children receiving no vaccines and 11 percent for those children who received vaccines including pertussis (Odent et al., 1994). Finally, a study was conducted in the US from data in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of infants through adolescents aged 16. Data showed that children vaccinated with DTP or tetanus were twice as likely to develop asthma compared to unvaccinated children (Hurwitz and Morgenstern, 2000).
Management of asthma
Holistic pediatric care has the ability to significantly strengthen immune function, preventing asthma attacks and even curing the underlying cause of symptoms. When used in combination with nutritional approaches to build immune function, natural forms of treatment will create a higher level of health with less tendency to allergic reactions. Never stop ongoing asthma medications without notifying a qualified medical professional.
The most successful approach to asthma, and the easiest for parents, is constitutional homeopathy as practiced by an experienced, certified, classical homeopathic practitioner (see www.homeopathicdirectory.com). The constitutional medicine is a single substance that corresponds to the overall picture of a child's physical symptoms, medical history, general metabolism, and behavior. A skilled homeopath will discern the correct medicine and prescribe it in a single dose on sugar pellets or repeated daily doses of a liquid solution. The expectation is less frequency and severity of asthmatic episodes. The typical effect of homeopathic care is gradual reduction in asthmatic and other respiratory symptoms, and improvement of overall health with less need for conventional drugs.
Oriental medicine and Chinese herbs have the ability to directly strengthen immune function. The most effective strategy for children is to use liquid extracts of herbs and mix them with juice. A licensed acupuncturist experienced in the treatment of children can assess an individual child's needs and prescribe an herbal formula that will relieve congestion, cough, and wheezing, and actually build immune function. The correct formula will adjust a child's energetic imbalances and strengthen weaker areas of energy that have led to decreased resistance and heightened susceptibility to allergens. The result is less symptoms and increased resistance to infections. Often, these herbal formulas will allow parents to decrease or even eventually stop the use of conventional asthma medications in children. An oriental medicine practitioner may also suggest a course of acupuncture, depending on the child's age and willingness to have treatment with needles.
Classical homeopathy, with its 200-year history of treating asthma, and oriental medicine, with a 3,000 year history, are the most consistently effective forms of natural medical treatment for childhood asthma. Both homeopathy and oriental medicine have also been proven effective for asthma treatment in double-blind clinical studies.
Nutritional supplements for asthma may include a fish oil supplement (omega-3 fats) to reduce inflammation, vitamins A and D, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, colostrum, and other immune system stimulants.
Homeopathic treatment at home
Of all the natural home treatments available, homeopathic medicines offer the quickest relief and are easiest for children to use because they enjoy the taste. Homeopathic medicines have no side effects, dangers, or dosage complications. Homeopathy will not interfere or interact with conventional asthma medications. Parents can feel totally confident in the safety of homeopathic medicines. Overdosing is impossible. A child can swallow an entire bottle of any homeopathic medicine and never suffer an adverse reaction.
The effectiveness of homeopathy, however, depends upon selection of the correct medicine for the symptoms. The process of choosing the right medicine for an asthma attack is simple enough. Match the child's symptoms of coughing and wheezing to the description of symptoms for each medicine and choose the one that represents the closest match. Parents should have a selection of appropriate medicines for asthma at home so that they can choose one during acute episodes. If parents are also taking their child to a homeopathic practitioner, then he or she can suggest a list of acute medicines that will be most appropriate for that child's symptoms. Otherwise, read through the list of symptoms associated with each of the medicines described here and keep the ones on hand that sound most like your child's symptoms.
The general rule for prescribing any acute homeopathic medicine is to repeat the dose until symptoms improve, then stop and observe. If symptoms return then begin the medicine again. For asthma and cough, if no improvement is noted within 24 hours, then re-evaluate the medicine and change to an alternate prescription. If symptoms change markedly after the prescription of the first medicine, then also re-evaluate and consider a second medicine. During a respiratory infection that changes form, for example from a runny nose to a deep chest cough, it is often necessary to switch medicines during the course of the illness. Since asthma symptoms tend to recur in the same form in an individual child, parents will usually discover a few medicines that work best for their child. Within a short time parents become expert in choosing the most effective medicine.
The following descriptions are separated into lists of medicines that correspond to dry or loose coughs. This is a relatively arbitrary distinction, and an individual child may have both dry and loose cough at different times of the day since coughs tend to sound more congested during the night and morning when children are lying down and mucus collects in the throat. Nonetheless, a tight, high-pitched, ringing cough can be clearly distinguished from a deep, rumbling, fluid-filled cough. Each of these medicines also has wheezing and chest tightness to varying degrees.
All homeopathic medicines should be given in the 30c strength. The amount of medicine administered is not critical; any amount will work equally well. The typical dose is two pellets every two to three hours, more frequently if wheezing is severe. However, at home when wheezing worsens parents will be using conventional medications, which should also relieve symptoms quickly, making more frequent repetition of homeopathics unnecessary.
Lobelia is the first medicine to think of when wheezing is accompanied by short, dry coughs. Shortness of breath is brought on by exposure to cold air and any exertion. The chest is tight and constricted.
Cuprum is characterized by spasms, spasmodic coughing and spasmodic vomiting. These children feel a painful constriction of the chest. Their cough is better from drinking cold water and worse in hot weather.
During a Kali-carb attack, children must sit up and lean forward in order to breathe more easily. They wake characteristically at 2-3 AM with a dry cough and wheezing. They must have open air when an attack occurs, but their cough is often brought on by cold weather.
Sudden, suffocative, gasping spells of asthma that resemble croup in their intensity. The child awakes nearly suffocated, gasping for air until the attack passes. She lies down afterwards only to awaken again with the same symptoms. Sambucus fits these sudden, dramatic attacks, usually at night, with a hollow dry cough, which is worse lying down and worse in cold air.
Ipecac corresponds to more childhood asthma symptoms than any other medicine. Racking, rattling coughs with rumbling in chest and wheezing. Coughing with every breath, accompanied by nausea, gagging, or vomiting. Attacks occur in warm or damp weather, and symptoms are better in the open. air. Mucus collects in the throat or chest, causing a loose gagging cough. Loud bubbling noises from the congestion can be heard in the chest on breathing.
So much mucus in the chest, and very little is expectorated. Children seem weak and wheezy. This is a worrisome sounding cough. These children seem sicker than those who need Ipecac, though the Ipecac children may have more rumbling chest sounds. Children must sit up to breathe. The chest is rattly and the cough is loose, worse in the evening and at night.
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