Natural Therapies and Children

We hear a lot of talk and get many questions about the merits of traditional “folk” remedies over conventional medicines. “When I was young, my mom fed me a bunch of tomato soup and orange juice and that seemed to clear up my cold…”

Some of these ‘holistic” remedies may indeed provide some relief, and there is some merit to healthy eating and plenty of fluids for some illnesses. Sometimes, however, conventional medicine – a prescribed medication – is what’s needed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a brief FAQ about the ins-and-outs of natural cures. We’re happy to share it below.

Is it OK to give my child “natural” therapies when she’s sick?
While most children in North America receive conventional medicine when they are sick, many parents want to know about natural therapies too. Alternative, complementary, and integrative medicine and folk remedies are some words used to describe these different therapies. Here’s a few things you should know:

Are all “natural” therapies safe?
No. Therapies are not safe just because they are natural. Side effects from natural therapies are rare but can occur. Check with your child’s doctor before adding or changing a therapy. Talk about what you’ve heard and read about natural therapies. Bring the products you give your child to your next medical appointment.

Does the US Food & Drug Administration regulate natural products?
Yes. the FDA regulates natural products such as dietary supplements. But they are regulated as a food and not as medicine. While most people can avoid buying rotten tomatoes or bruised fruit, it’s much harder to avoid poor-quality supplements. The FDA does not guarantee the purity, potency, effectiveness, or safety of natural products sold as dietary supplements.

Do natural therapies really work?
More research is needed for all kinds of therapies for children, including natural therapies. Some work for children with certain conditions but not for children with other conditions. This is true for conventional and natural therapies. For example, massage may help reduce stress, but it not a cure for cancer.

Do you need a special license to practice complementary medicine?
Each state has a different licensing rules. Check with the licensing board for your state to find out if a health professional has a license to practice. If your state does not require a license to practice (for example, some states do not license acupuncturists), be sure the professional is certified by a national professional organization. Always ask about a practitioner’s training and experience. Find out if the practitioner has been specifically trained to treat children and how many children he or she treats each week.

Will insurance pay for it?
Insurance companies and flexible medical spending accounts have many different plans that cover different things. There is often less coverage for complementary therapies than for conventional care. Check with your insurance company.

Why is it important to talk to my child’s doctor about these treatments?
Talking with your child’s doctor helps you know if a treatment is safe and effective. Talk about all therapies given to your child including vitamins, herbs, or other supplements. This is especially important because there can be dangerous side effects when medicines or therapies are given at the same time. Include information about other health professionals caring for your child so care can be coordinated.
Ask all of your child’s health care professionals to talk with each other. Open communication is the best way to promote the safest care possible.

A Reading Assignment

Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP, is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and is director of the MD-MPH program there. That’s a lot of credentials and acronyms, but know that he’s practiced primary care pediatrics for a while in a number of settings, and is the founding medical director of “Reach Out and Read Wisconsin.”

Dr. Navsaria posted a recommended reading list for children of all ages to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and we’re happy to share his insights with you.


In today’s world, children and teens are bombarded with conflicting, ever-shifting standards of ethics and morality. At the same time, you are trying to teach and instill good values at home. Fortunately, a really great book has the power to counterbalance these outside influences and teach children important lessons as they grow.
It might be a book on kindness after your child experienced or witnessed cruelty. It might be a book on expressing emotions after your child s aw or heard scary news coverage, or maybe a book on understanding differences after your child saw someone who looked differently than they do.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Reach Out and Read have compiled the following list of books—organized by age and topic—to help you raise children who are aware of the world around them, curious, brave, kind, and thoughtful. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to review these titles in advance of sharing them with their children.
Then read together! Books are great conversation starters that can give you an opportunity to talk to your children about these issues and help them learn and understand your family’s values.

Books to Teach Kindness:
Teaching kindness to children is an important skill to build and reinforce at all ages. Young children can learn how small acts of kindness help and please others, but teens can learn broader, larger concepts grounded in morals and ethics.
Preschoolers & Early Grades

Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy, by Bob Sornson; illustrated by Shelley Johannes
Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Kindness is Cooler, Mrs Ruler, by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
What Does It Mean To Be Kind?, by Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed, by Emily Pearson, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka
Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Heartprints, by P.K. Hallinan

Middle Grades:

Charlotte’s Web
, by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
Wonder, by RJ Palacio
Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents, by Sarah Conover and Valerie Wahl

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Rules, by Cynthia Lord

Books About Expressing Emotions:
Children may see anger, sadness, and loss in parents and other adults in their lives and be uncertain how to respond. Younger children may have difficulty naming their emotions, but find it easier to identify with a character in a book. Older children may have difficulty sorting through complex feelings and worry about burdening adults who are struggling themselves. Books can help children process, clarify, and put a name to their feelings.

Preschoolers & Early Grades:
Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee MacLean
That’s How I Feel (Asi Me Siento), by Rourke Publishing
Have you Filled a Bucket Today?, by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing
What if Everybody Did That?, by Ellen Javernick, illustrated by Colleen M. Madden
I Was So Mad, by Mercer Mayer
Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners, by Laurie Keller
My Many Colored Days, by Dr Seuss

Middle Grades:
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Queenie Peavy, by Robert Burch

Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens, by Sheri Van Dijk
A Still Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions, by Amy Saltzman MD
Learning to Breathe: A Mindfulness Curriculum for Adolescents to Cultivate Emotion Regulation, Attention, and Performance, by Patricia Broderick PhD

Swimmer’s Ear Isn’t Just for Summer

Summertime means beaches and lakes and lots of swim time. That doesn’t stop when Fall arrives! Many of our children participate in swim programs and teams throughout the year! So what does one do if their little swimmer starts complaining about painful ears after a pool visit?

In “doctor-speak,” swimmer’s ear is technically called “otitis externa.” Your ears secrete a film of wax that acts as a barrier to bacteria and other invaders. When water gets between that wax and the outer layer of your ear canal, bacteria can develop, and that can create a feeling of pressure in the ear – like an earache. And believe it or not, it can happen on dry land also! You don’t have to submerge your head to attract that moisture!

If your child goes swimming, ask them afterwards if they feel like they still have water in their ears. If they lie down, the water may run out of their ears naturally. A good prevention technique is mixing half white vinegar with half common rubbing alcohol. The vinegar balances the PH of the ear while the rubbing alcohol will dry out the ear to remove that excess moisture. Most bacteria relies on a certain PH to grow. Three or four drops of this mixture should do the trick.

PLEASE avoid using q-tips or other invasive objects, as this can lead to eardrum damage and an infection!

If your child is still complaining of fullness, pain, or a clogged feeling after 24 hours, it’s time to come see us.

We typically treat swimmer’s ear with oral or topical antibiotics (ear drops). If your child is experiencing pain, over the counter Ibuprofen or Tylenol will provide them some relief. Until all of your child’s symptoms disappear, stay out of the water! Cheer from the sidelines for a practice or two!

Then you’ll be ready to dive back in.