(click to read part one to find out about the problem)
As a consumer of health care for your children, it’s up to you to make mindful choices. Your health care decisions affect your child on many levels – brain development, immune system function, hormone balance, mental and emotional well-being. Your children need you to be their advocate and to make sure they are getting the best quality care.
Many parents blindly trust “doctor’s orders” and use medication to suppress the symptoms. It’s understandable – make it go away and all will be fine. Sometimes the prescribed drug really is what is necessary. But the symptoms are there for a reason. They are an indication of a need within the body to regain balance and health. Suppressing the symptoms with drugs, without addressing the underlying need, may set the stage for repeated and possibly worse health problems in the future.
How do you know the advice you are getting is good advice for your unique child? Unfortunately, even the best pediatricians have limited time for each patient. Chances are your child’s pediatrician works within very strict guidelines and timeframes. How can a doctor possibly understand all the unique issues and circumstances of your child in a 10-15 minute visit?
How much does your doctor know about food and nutrition or what toxic exposures you should avoid? Or how to strengthen your child’s natural immunity to prevent disease? How much time does she have to talk with you about all you need to know?
Now, more than ever, it’s important to trust your maternal instincts and power of discernment. You know when something is “off”, or just not right. Mothers’ intuition is there for a reason. If your inner voice is telling you a diagnosis or treatment is not right, bring up your concerns with your doctor, and ask for more information. Ask how she came to the diagnosis and why she chose a certain treatment.
You have the right to question the treatments, vaccines, and procedures prescribed to your child. Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike. What is right for one child could very well be a disaster for another. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. If your doctor objects to this, consider it a red flag.
Don’t be intimidated or rushed into making a decision. If your doctor refuses to answer your questions or is condescending, find a doctor who will treat you with compassion and respect; someone who is willing to work with you to do what is best for your child.
There are definitely times when pharmaceutical drugs are necessary. The key is to know when they are necessary and when you can use natural medicines that may work better – safely, without side effects.
You can learn the signs and symptoms of typical childhood diseases so you have an idea of what you are dealing with when your child gets sick. You can learn the “red flags” so you know what you can treat at home or whether you should call the doctor.
If you get a prescription drug for your child, tell your doctor about any other drugs, herbal medicines, supplements, or other treatments your child is taking. Know the potential side effects of all of your child’s medications.
Questions you may want to ask when prescribed medication:
What is the expected outcome of this medication?
It’s important to know specifically why it’s being prescribed and what the potential benefit might be.
How long does your doctor expect that your child will be on the medication?
Your doctor should be able to give you an idea of how long your child should take the drug before experiencing the expected outcome. Will it be a short period of time and then the medication can be stopped? Or is it something your child will have to continue to take long-term or even continually?
What are the known potential side effects?
Know the potential side effects of all drugs prescribed to your child, and remind your doctor of any medications your child is currently on. Will the side effects need to be managed with other types of medications? Sometimes a doctor will diagnose a new illness when the symptoms are actually a side effect of the current drug they are taking.
How long has the drug been on the market?
If it’s a drug that recently came on the market, be extra cautious about making your child a guinea pig for drug testing. For new drugs, there’s often insufficient information about serious risks that won’t be detected until used by many people for three to five years or longer. Does your doctor follow the research to know if there have been any red flags?
Has this drug been approved for use in children?
Medications prescribed to children that have not been approved by the FDA for use in children are called off-label drugs. Many doctors prescribe off-label drugs to children. Ask your doctor why this is necessary.
Are there safe, effective, non-drug alternatives?
Many doctors will say no to this question, simply because they are not informed about the alternatives. Pediatricians are not trained in natural medicine, and can be biased against herbal medicines, homeopathy, and nutritional supplements. Some doctors will never recommend herbs over drugs, but many are beginning to become aware of the evidence of safety and efficacy of certain natural medicines.
When it comes to medicine, it is beneficial to not have an either/or attitude. Both conventional and natural, holistic medicine have an important place in health care and can make a powerful team.
If you use herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies, or other supplements, it’s important to first do some research to determine what’s right for your child. Remember, children are not all the same and what works for one child may not be right for another. And just because it’s natural, does not necessarily mean it’s safe for your child.
If in doubt, it’s best to find a qualified holistic doctor who knows how to treat children with natural medicine. There are specific herbs and supplements that have been formulated to be safe and effective for use in children. Some of these formulas are only available through a health care provider. Naturopathic physicians, Chinese medical doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and holistic medical doctors have access to the latest medical information about herbs and supplements.
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