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An Interview with Dana Ullman, MPH
Why should any parent consider homeopathic medicines for their infant or children?
"First, do no harm" was Hippocrates' most famous words, and they are particularly important in the care and treatment of infants and children. Most people don't know it, but most conventional drugs are tested on adults, and then, doctors estimate (or guess-imate) the appropriate dosage for children on such crude measures as a child's weight. Worst still, in the United States, approximately 20% of pediatric visits lead to a prescription of more than one drug at a time. Once a second drug is given to a child, the doctor is not prescribing based on any research at all because the original research was not conducted with multiple drugs. Further, doctor doesn't know the interactions of the drugs together.
The fact that so many conventional doctors are experimenting upon our children is truly horrifying, and yet, few people and few doctors are sounding the alarm.
It is quite fascinating that so many children are fearful of their doctor, and I believe that these children are more sensitive and aware of the problems that doctors are creating than we adults realize. It is quite rare for children to experience this same degree of fear when they enter the office of a homeopath.
The number one reason that parents bring their children to a homeopath is because homeopathic medicines are so much safer than conventional medicines.
The second main reason that parents bring their children to homeopaths is that children respond so well to homeopathic medicines. You can really change a child's life, both physical and psychologically, with the correct homeopathic remedy. And you can help make a parent's life much easier and much better.
I should also mention that I have a special place in my heart for pediatric care. My father is a pediatrician, and I am a father myself. In preparation for fatherhood, I wrote Homeopathic Medicines for Children and Infants, which is the most popular guidebook in America for teaching parents how to treat their children with homeopathic medicines.
How do children respond to homeopathic remedies?
Children respond extremely well to homeopathic remedies, even when the perfect medicine is not always prescribed. It is as though the intelligence in their body is so high that their internal radar is scanning for any energetic medicine that is even close to being the best one. Famed astromer Johann Kepler once said, "Nature uses as little as possible of anything." The fact that children respond so well to homeopathic medicines is one further example of this.
Describe the homeopathic interview process with children.
I call homeopathy "Dragnet medicine," named after the popular American detective television show from the 50s. Who, what, why, where, when?—these are the questions that chief detective Joe Friday continually asked. "Just the facts, 'mam" is what he insisted upon—he didn't want any theories, only facts.
I talk to the child as much as possible, and only later do I talk with the parent.
I watch the child, both in the waiting room, as she or he approaches me, and throughout the interview. I have a lot of respect for children, and I try to show them this respect by talking directly to them, and usually in a quite adult fashion. If they are at least four years of age, I can carry on some type of interview with them. If so, I ask them:
- What hurts the most?
- What things make the pain worse and what things make the pain better.
- What other "hurts" they have and things make these worse or better.
- I then do a "body scan" in which I list a specific part of their body, and they tell me if they have been having any symptoms with that part of their body.
The following questions help me understand the child him or herself. I ask them:
- To describe themselves a couple of years ago.
- How might their brothers and sisters describe them.
- How would one of their friends describe them.
- How would one of their enemies describe them.
These questions help the child to distance him or herself from their reply in order to provide a more accurate answer.
- I ask them what is the worst punishment their parents could ever give them.
For children who can't talk, I observe them and ask many of these same questions to the child's parents. I also ask them:
- What does your child seem to value most?
- What emotions does the child seem to experience and how is it expressed?
- Tell me about the pregnancy and labor.
How do you treat fever in a child?
Most often, one needs to treat the parent's anxieties and fears more than the child's fever. The best way to treat these fears is with education about the wisdom of the body and about fever as an important defense. I say this because physicians and physiologists today recognize that fever is a useful response of the person's body to infection. While it is true that certain high or long-lasting fevers need to be treated or suppressed in some way, such fevers represent an extreme minority of fevers in children.
I am quite concerned about the overuse of conventional drugs to lower fevers. Homeopaths assert that we create a lot of chronic disease when we suppress acute illness.
I am often amazed at how well and how fast homeopathic medicines work in fevers. Because a fever is a defense, the body will make good use of additional tools that it is given to help in its defense. This is distinct from conventional drugs, especially anti-inflammatory drugs that ultimately are obstacles to the true cure.
I can and will refer the child for immediate medical treatment if fever is experienced in newborns (within first 4 months) that does not respond to homeopathic treatment within two hours, or if a fever in any child is over 40 degree Celsius and doesn't respond to home treatment after 6 hours, or if high fever in any child leads to great lethargy and neck stiffness.
Is it appropriate to use antibiotics in ear infections?
Antibiotics may have a place in treating ear infections but not necessarily as a treatment of first choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines for the use of antibiotics in acute ear infections in children is actually that they should be avoided for the first three months. It may surprise some people to learn that a meta-analysis of the best studies on ear infection (British Medical Journal, 1997, 87:pp.466-74) found no benefit of using antibiotics as compared to placebo.
To make matters worse, some evidence suggests that administration of antibiotics lead to three times the number of ear infections as those children left untreated. Part of the problem with antibiotics is a basic premise of healing that is commonly ignored, that is, anytime you get something done for the body, the body doesn't learn to do it on its own as well.
In the U.S, it is too common that antibiotics are prescribed to newborns, even for simply having a reddened ear. The long-term consequences are unknown and scary. This over-prescribing of antibiotics for both newborns and any child is a part of what I call "medical child abuse." I look forward to the day that homeopathy gains more respect and is added into the medicine chest of more parents and doctors.
Which homeopathic medicines are used to treat ear infections?
Homeopathy is magnificent for the treatment for childhood ear infections. It is often as simply as ABC + P: Aconitum, Belladonna, Chamomilla, & Pulsatilla…with less common use of Mercurius, Mercurius iodatus.flavus., Merc iodatus.ruber, Hepar sulphur, and Silicea. Results are often rapid, but even when they aren't, it seems as though these children still aren't getting as many ear infections as those who are prescribed antibiotics.
According to a recent study of 75 children with otitis media that was published in Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, parent's diary scores showed a significant decrease in symptoms at 24 and 64 hours after treatment in favor of those given a homeopathic medicine (P<.05). There were also 20% less "treatment failures" in children given a homeopathic medicine as compared with those given a placebo.
[Reference: J Jacobs, DA Springer, D Crothers, Homeopathic Treatment of Acute Otitis Media in Children: A Preliminary Randomized Placebo-controlled Trial, Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 20,2 (February 2001):177-183.]
How long will serious earaches usually last after homeopathic treatment?
There is an old saying, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall." I translate that into the more serious the pain and discomfort, the faster the relief. It is as though their defenses are so strong that the homeopathic medicine provides a greater and faster relief than those with mild, persistent discomfort.
Typically, the relief from a homeopathic medicine is within a couple of hours and certainly after one night's rest.
What potencies are usually used to treat ear infections?
From 6th to 1,000 (known as "1M"). The more confident I am, the higher the potency, and the more vitality the child has, the higher the potency. That said, people who are not as knowledgeable of homeopathic medicines should use the 6th, 12th, or 30th potencies.
How often do you recommend repeat the application of the remedy in acute cases?
- 12th and 30th – I usually repeat every 2-4 hours in severe pain and every 4-6 hours in mild pain
- 200 and 1M – in severe pain, I recommend every 2 hours for the first 3 doses, and in mild pain every 4-6 hours
- if no change after 24 hours, I consider another remedy
- stop taking the medicine once obvious improvement begins
- start taking it again if pain returns
Do you recommend flouride pills?
I believe that we should fluoridate candy, not water (although this sounds like a joke, it actually make more sense than putting fluoride in water).
Fluoride does help the teeth in small doses, but it also will irritate them in overdose. One has to remember that once fluoride enters the water system, it is then not only drank, but it is eaten when one washes food with it or cooks with it, and it is not always easy to regulate the proper amounts of fluoride in the water.
There are safer ways to strengthen a child's teeth than taking fluoridated water or fluoride pills: a constitutional remedy or even occasional doses of the 3rd or 6th potency of the appropriate Calcarea salt to their body type.
What can you say about homeopathy and hyperactive children?
Homeopathic medicines are wonderfully effective for hyperactive children (and hyperactive adults), though this doesn't necessarily mean that a remedy will "cure" them. Sometimes, the remedy will simply slow them down and help them feel more in control on their energy.
One study of 43 children with hyperactivity found a statistically significant benefit in those given an individually chosen homeopathic medicine. After the first phase of the study, the children who were given a placebo were then given a homeopathic medicine, and there was again a statistically significant improvement in their health.
By the way, the most common remedies used in this study were Stramonium (thornapple) at 35%, Cina (wormseed) at 19%, Hyoscaymus (henbane) at 19%, Veratrum album (white hellabore), Tarentula (tarentula), and several others.
[Reference: John Lamont, "Homeopathic Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder," British Homeopathic Journal, Vol. 86, October, 1997, 196-200.]
Homeopathic medicines can elicit a deep and powerful healing that truly changes the child's personality. It is as though the homeopathic medicine helped pull off a veil of disease that embodied the child.
Hyperactivity sometimes requires a constitutional remedy rather than an acute one. Mind you, acute remedies may provide short-term relief, but such relief is not what most children and what parents want. They want long-term improvement, though they can and will accept whatever they can get.
The course of treatment may require miasmatic remedies and other remedies based on etiology of the child's problem (a "miasm" is the homeopathic concept of an underlying genetic and/or acquired chronic disease from which various chronic and acute symptoms manifest). A miasm can be the result of a previous infection or environmental toxin that a person or one of his/her ancestors experienced and never adequately cured.
Two colleagues, Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, and Robert Ullman, ND (no relation to me!), have written two books on the subject of hyperactivity, both of which are helpful to practitioners and parents: Ritalin Free Kids and Rage Free Kids.
These books provide very useful descriptions of the leading remedies for hyperactivity and its various syndromes. I highly recommend these books.
Are there other natural therapies that you recommend for children?
I think that it is important for homeopaths to be familiar with other natural healing tools. Such tools can be helpful when you need more time to determine the best homeopathic medicines and because such tools provide some benefit in and of themselves. Having other tools also discourages us from becoming "homeopathic chauvinists," that is, being so obsessed with homeopathy that other solutions are not considered. Having other tools helps avoid putting all of your eggs in the one homeopathic basket. Having other tools is important for the practice of medicine (or of healing) because it encourages us to experiment to see what elicits some type of healing or what may impede it (changing diet is a useful exercise and experiment)
Can homeopathy help when there is a weakness in learning in students?
Absolutely. When the child has greater control of their energy, they are better able to learn and absorb.
Healing and learning have more in common than we realize. Healing is about learning on some level, though in homeopathy we don't always heal by conscious learning. The greatest healers help bring consciousness to learning and healing.
Virtually all homeopathic medicines are potential remedies for hyperactivity or learning disabilities, though the most common ones are:
Stramonium, Hyoscyamus, Arsenicum, Medhorrinum, Tuberculinum, Tarentula, Veratrum album, Lycopodium, Natrum mur, Natrum sulphicum, Cina, Argentum nitricum, Zincum, and Nux vomica.
One small study of 43 kids with ADHD observed that Stramonium was the most prescribed (35%), Cina and Hyoscyamus had 19% each, Tarentula and Veratrum album were next.
Can homeopathy help in the development of children and teenagers?
Good homeopathic treatment during childhood can and will help create healthier teenagers (if there is such a thing as a healthy teenager—some parents wonder about this). Good homeopathic are also help build healthier adults, physically and psychologically. All of which then helps to create a healthier world. This is homeopathy at work. And this is real healing!
Do you have any closing thoughts?
It deeply saddens me that so many parents and doctors give powerful drugs to infants and children. They unknowingly are committing what I call "medical child abuse." Although these may be harsh words today, I believe that history will show them to be accurate. Homeopathic medicines provide a viable alternative to the powerful conventional drugs of our day, and I sincerely hope that parents and doctors learn about them soon.