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Natural products for children

By Shaun Holt

More and more parents want to treat medical problems in children with natural products rather than what they often consider to be less healthy, synthetic chemicals.

A huge health survey in the USA which collected data from nearly 10,000 children under the age of 18, found that 12% of children were using some form of natural products.

There are several issues to consider when it comes to recommending natural products for children. The products must be very safe of course and so can be a fine balance between giving a pill or capsule to help with a medical problem, while also encouraging good health habits from having a good diet and exercising.

Some of the most useful, natural products that can be recommended for common medical problems experienced by children are:

Probiotics for allergic conditions - can be helpful for preventing common and troublesome childhood allergic disorders such as eczema, asthma, hayfever and peanut allergies. There have been a number of studies and in some of these the probiotics were given to the infants themselves and in others they were given to the pregnant or breastfeeding mothers who pass them on. Probiotics were most effective in reducing the chance of developing eczema and intriguingly, probiotics may reduce the chances of developing a severe allergy to peanuts.

Fish oil for ADHD - omega 3 fatty acid supplements were found to be modestly effective in the treatment of ADHD with very few side effects.

Multivitamins for nutritional support - for various reasons, as has been discussed in previous articles, it is very hard to study the effects of taking multivitamin supplements, and I have argued that they provide "nutritional insurance" i.e. they top up anything that we may be missing in our diet and if all or some of the components are not needed we easily excrete them. For children, they are potentially useful for “fussy eaters” who may have one or more low grade vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Honey for coughs - coughs in children most commonly occur in conjunction with a throat infection and at night can disrupt sleep. Several studies have shown that honey can be an effective treatment for a tickly cough in children, particularly at bedtime. For example, a study of over 100 children showed that taking honey around 30 minutes before they went to bed, coated the nerve endings in their throat and reduced coughing and improved sleep. So a spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down and in this case, it is the medicine. The honey can be eaten plain or mixed in with a soothing drink. The good news is that for treating a cough, parents can give any honey that they have in the house, it does not have to be expensive medical-grade honey.