Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Natural and Alternative Cures For Your Child

Natural and alternative cures is not new news. In fact, it probably is the oldest news in the history of medicine. Old civilizations, such as those in India and China, have used this for thousands of years to cure their people. In these countries, especially China, modern medicine has a healthy coexistence with traditional medicine, having a huge 60% to 40% ratio for health care delivered, respectively. As a testament to it's pervasiveness, Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal cures and Ayurvedic treatments have even found a niche in the West. It'll make you think that these therapies and cures are doing some people some good, seeing that they have stood the test of time and still as widespread as they are now.

The West has not been ignorant to recognizing the potential of finding natural ways to cure human sickness. Homeopathic treatments, developed in Germany in the 1700, is a form of alternative medicine based on the principles first defined by physician Samuel Hahnemann. Homeopathy roughly translates to "like cures like", "homeo" being Greek for "like" and "patho" meaning "disease". This kind of treatment also advocates the use of chemicals and compounds which can be extracted from flora and fauna.

Alternative medicine is still growing in prevalence so much so that even modern pharmaceutical companies are feeling the need to step up the competition. Although some are already manufacturing health supplements like garlic capsules, grape seed extract etc. it'll be a long time till the twain shall meet.

Why should one try alternative cures? Looking at the basics, it is oftentimes cheaper and less invasive. Some medication are just too strong and will cause some side effects, especially on children. Also, most alternative cures require stuff which can easily be found in the house or garden. It can even be as simple as adding or substituting ingredients to a meal. To get you started on discovering what natural cures can do for you and your family, please try some of these suggestions:

If your child is having problems with mouth infections or cavities, try using salt instead of regular toothpaste. Most commercial toothpastes are too strong and kills off naturally occurring good bacteria of the mouth along with the bad. If salt is too unpalatable, try mixing it with crushed mint leaves.

For teens or anyone having acne or pimple problems, apply lemon juice or orange peel extract instead of astringents. Some astringents are just too strong, they literally dry off the skin, leaving it vulnerable to infection. To moisturize and revitalize the skin after a long day, make a poultice out of cucumber and oatmeal (oatmeal so the mixture will hold together). Apply and leave for several hours.

There are a lot of cures for coughs but here is one that seems most palatable. Grape juice (from natural grapes of course) acts as an expectorant and relaxes the lungs. Mix a cup with honey, just make sure it is not cold.

Speaking of honey, this wonder of nature is also good for scrapes and wounds! Wash the wound or scrape first, put honey or better yet Manuka Honey (a special kind of honey found in New Zealand) on a bandage and then wrap the wound up. Amino acids and vitamin C found in honey speed up the growth of healthy tissue while the naturally occuring hydrogen peroxide it contains is released slowly, killing germs in the wound.

For babies, a frequent problem can be diaper rash. The diaper should never be allowed to stay wet and should be changed immediately. Once the baby is clean, apply an ample amount of cornstarch and not talcum powder on your baby's tushie. If the rash is severe, use cod liver oil or shark liver oil (squalene). Squalene penetrates the skin quickly and does not leave a greasy feeling on the skin.

If the child has been toilet trained already yet still has a problem with bedwetting, try giving him a small cup of cranberry juice an hour before sleeping. Cranberry juice has done wonders for the human urological system since time immemorial. Herbs like causticum, lycopodium, ursi, corn silk and pulsatilla also has been known to help.

Burns are also unavoidable with children. For minor burns without wounds, apply some ground up aloe vera on the affected part to help with the cooling. If burn marks appear sometime after, put some papaya on it. The papaya fruit is known to have enzymes that effectively help remove dead skin cells.

These are only some of the many things you can try out. If there is one thing natural medicine has in common with modern medicine, it is when to use the right medicine where and how. Simply put, a Chinese herbalist will do the same as a doctor. Most probably he will ask about the history of your sickness, what foods you are allergic to and after prescribing the medicine, tell you that you need to watch what you eat, exercise in moderation etc.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Choosing Toys For Your Baby and Toddler

I've been quite active in some forums lately and I came across a thread which was left unanswered for a couple of days. It frustrated the thread starter of course and so I decided to post a reply. The topic was pretty easy and intuitive, at least that was what I thought the first time I read it. The thread starter, a mom, wanted to know of activities and toys that would be recommended for toddlers and children.

I can still distinctly recall what toys and activities my parents provided me when I was a child. Since my mom was a graduate of Fine Arts, naturally she encouraged us to draw. She allowed me and my sisters to draw on the walls of the house. She also gave us large sheets of paper where we could trace our hands and feet on. As we grew up, we took to smaller sheets of paper, began using smaller crayons, then pencils then pens. It never left us, I sometimes still draw in my spare time for leisure. My sister was the one where the talent really stayed and flourished, lucky her! Although she is a graduate of Sociology, she now works as a layout artist for an international company, sketching and drawing storyboards and creating comics in her spare time.

My all time favorite has got to be Lego. Lego has been around for ages and I think it won't be going away soon, which is a good thing. I don't think its possible for anyone to know how to surf the Internet but not know of Lego. If you are still unaware of this great toy, click here. My dad got my sister the "Duplo" set and for me, the Lego "Technic" set. I think he may have overshot it with the Technic set though. The first time I opened the box that Christmas, I distinctly remember being disappointed. Being 7 at that time, I said to myself "What the hell is this, everything is yellow and black and does not resemble a toy!". Sadly, by the time I was able to appreciate what he gave me, everything was already ruined by excessive biting. Yes, I didn't know there was a way to seperate Lego bits aside from biting it off.

Not all parents are the same. Not all dads would get their kids Lego sets and certainly not all moms would allow their kids to write on the walls of their houses! So I think I'll just give my thoughts on "how" to choose toys and not "what" toys to choose for their toddlers and young kids.

As with all purchases, you would want to get the most out of your money's worth. You will want to get something that, will first off, fulfill the need it was intended for. Second consideration would be its quality and durability, understandably so because we are talking about children's toys. Then only comes the price.

So for example, you are planning to get, say, a doll for your 3 year old child. A doll is usually a representation of something that is living, more commonly a human being. I have read, dolls usually help children recognize the needs of a living being. They will learn how to dress it up, to play house with it, to feed it.

I did not include "child safety" as a category in what I had said earlier because a parent should never compromise that, it is always a given. Always check the packaging for an age guide and safety notes of the manufacturer (which is sometimes still really unreliable, seeing that there had been a slew of recalls over the past few years, so please check reviews on the Internet before buying). That being said, if you find yourself choosing between a stuffed toy bear and a Bratz doll, ask yourself. Does your child need something to hug? Is your kid able to handle hard or small plastic objects already? Where will she be using it, is it okay to leave it on the bed or on the crib? There are a whole lot of questions to be asked but primary, just ask yourself what purpose will the toy be fulfilling if you get it for your child.

Will it be durable? I've seen too many dismembered Barbie dolls during my childhood, since these toys are expensive, my parents decided to get us another brand, relatively cheaper because it was made out of hollow plastic. These got dismembered still, but my parents were crying no longer.

The best toy for me, would have a good balance of the three factors I have mentioned. Quality certainly would make the price go up and vice versa. If you are a parent who is not on a budget though, then its a different story.

Once you have covered these, it's time to get the toy. How do you choose which is appropriate for your child? I hope parents won't just get a toy just for the sake of giving one to their kid. It is very important to give a toy that will help your kid develop. Toys and play will be the main activity during the formative years, naturally you will be able to use these two not only to make your child happy but also to educate him or her as well.

HowStuffWorks gives a recommendation on what to get for babies and what to get for toddlers. Babies will need toys which will stimulate their senses. Rattles and mobiles help develop hearing, not to mention the fact that they make endearing keepsakes. Colorful stuffed animals, balls and activity boxes will help with movement and tactile perception. Stuffed toys should be small enough so that the baby can cuddle it, it is also recommended to get one that has a variety of textures, e.g. soft, rough, fluffy, smooth etc. For activity boxes, get ones which have buttons and knobs to push and pull, doors to slide open, movements that will get your baby to do basic tasks.

You may notice that after a few months, your baby will grow disinterested with his toys. This only means he has outgrown them. It would be a good time to shop for new toys which will provide more stimuli, like a stuffed animal of a more complex shape color and texture.

The same goes for toddlers too. We can classify toddlers into 2 groups, the young toddler (12-24 months) and the older toddlers (2-3 years).

Young toddlers will require toys which will develop fine motor skills and ambidexterity. Blocks and dolls are appropriate here though I would recommend the kind that looks like a Cabbage Patch kid not the Barbie doll kind. Nothing with small pieces as of now. Also check for any fiber or fabric that can be shed as the child may ingest these.

The large Duplo blocks or wooden blocks are not recommended yet. Choose blocks which are made out of light plastic, rubber or foam. The blocks should have rounded corners to avoid poking accidents. Sorting toys may come in the form of activity boxes with has holes to accommodate blocks of different sizes and shapes.

Older toddlers will need toys that will cultivate imaginative thinking. At this stage, your child should be able to hold a writing implement already. Big crayons and pens but not those with a sharp point can be given. Make sure to get the non-toxic kind. Toys that resemble real-life tools are recommended. Play telephones, minature keyboard pianos, kitchen equipment, toy cars, trains, trucks etc. Since these toys are made to imitate real life counterparts, increased wear is to be expected. Make sure that metal parts are rustproof, parts which might break off will not splinter or get a sharp edge.

Toy instruments like tambourines, horns and drums are a must. Puzzles are highly recommended, however, choose ones which you think is at the level of your child's capacity. A complex puzzle game may even discourage your kid to play it.

This is also a great stage to read to your child. Set aside time to read to your child or to listen audio books with him. If he has difficulty paying attention or sitting still, do not make him stay put. Continue to read but attempt to get a response from time to time to make sure he is listening to you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Future for an Autistic Child

When I hear the word "Autism", I am reminded of the film "Mercury Rising" where FBI agent Art Jeffries (Bruce Willis) struggles to protect a 9 year old autistic savant, Simon Lynch (Miko Hughes) against assassins after cracking a secret government code thought to be so complex that its creators believed no computer on earth can decipher it.

The creators of the code were so confident that nothing or no-one would be able to crack it that they secretly published it as a puzzle in a magazine (fantastic, but stay with me here ok?). Unfortunately, the boy figures it out after merely looking at it and then calls the number written in the code.

Amazing huh? Not to mention incredulous. There is some truth to this though.

Autism is quite a well known word. Or should I say infamous? Most parents would expectedly cringe at the thought of their child having the condition. But why? Is the possession superhuman code-cracking abilities so bad?

First off, to those who are unfamiliar with Autism, Wikipedia and other sites define it as "a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behavior". There are more conditions in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) but the ones above pretty much typify the kind of autism most people know of.

Savantism or Savant Syndrome, as researcher Darold Treffert defines it, is rare condition in which persons with developmental disorders (including ASD) have one or more areas of expertise, ability or brilliance that are in contrast with the individual's overall limitations. Kim Peek, although later proven to have only FG Syndrome and autism, is probably the best example of Savantism. The recitation of the content of some 12,000 books from memory, or instantaneous recollection of the day of a particular date would be some of the many unbelivable mental acrobatics he is easily able to perform. He is what is called a "mega-savant".

It is not uncommon for an autistic child to be a savant but most children afflicted with the condition are not so fortunate. I am also often reminded of my cousin who is now 16 years of age. Thankfully he was born into an upper middle class family and was well taken care of since birth. Aside from his mother he also had a nanny who attended to his needs 24/7. He was provided good food, toys and lots of love. I usually get to see him at family gatherings, which are not very often. Because of this I was able to witness the stark changes in him as he grew older. I got to see him just last Christmas, he's quite the handsome kid now.

If you saw his picture, you'd never know he was autistic. When you get to meet him personally, it's when the sad truth comes out. He's already a teen, yet he can't speak an intelligible sentence, though he is able to understand simple commands mostly only from his mother and nanny. I've never seen him make eye contact with anyone or pay attention to anything for more than a minute. I especially feel sorry for my aunt whenever he throws a fit; the kicks and punches she tries to quell are no longer from the child she used to care for.

This had always been the subject of concern for everyone, a question much often relegated to the backs of our minds because it was too hard to confront. My aunt was obviously getting too old for this and her special son growing up too fast. What would happen after a year? After 5 or 10 years? I think most of us knew the answer but did not want to talk about it anymore.

I certainly did not talk to my aunt about it, when we meet we only talk about happy stuff. I guess most of you know how it is. Last time I heard from my mum, my aunt was planning to move to another state because they wished to purse a better treatment program for my cousin. Honestly I don't know much else as I have not been able to update myself on it.

From what I have read though, it seems to be a consensus among authorities on autism that it is incurable. It is possible, however, to enroll an autistic child into a program which will effectively alleviate its effects, thus making him or her more manageable.

It is best to start treatment as early as possible. Here are some things to watch out for if you suspect that your child has it:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects
(taken from

Having an autistic child is one of the greatest trials that can ever befall a parent. Treatment programs will not only require money but the utmost devotion and commitment of the parent to the program. It is not like a daycare where you can drop off your kid and then pick them up afterward. Parents are also required to attend awareness programs or classes aside from time spent with their child at treatment.

Fortunately, support for autism is widespread. There are a lot of treatment programs to choose from, but as always, the best choice comes from a well-informed decision. The best source of information would again be the Internet. A lot of reputable sites can be retrieved simply by keying in "autism" in Google. Join autism forums to get testimonials and stories from families in a similar fix. You can also get good recommendations for reading about the subject on sites and forums.

As of now I am still uncertain of what lies ahead for my cousin. One good thing though, he has an older sister who would certainly take care of him in case something happens to their parents. My family and I, as well as other relatives are always there for them. If this is so, it makes me think that his fate isn't so uncertain after all. I sincerely wish other children were just as lucky.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hyperactivity and Diet

I haven't been posting for a while because I was busy on some other stuff at work. However, I kept coming across a topic so much that it kinda bothered me to write something about it. As I was browsing through a forum the other day, I encountered an inquiry from a mother who was at her wits end. She was having trouble with her uncooperative son and did not know what to do about it. I replied to her, suggesting that she pay close attention to her kid's diet. However, I could not give her specific information on what to do.

Now that I am able to get back to writing on my blog, I decided to do a quick research into the subject. I mentioned in my reply to her to avoid foods like corn, wheat, milk, soy, oranges, eggs, chocolate and milk. Browsing some websites, I also found out about a thing called the Feingold Diet which specifically focuses on the role of food in hyperactive children.

This diet, as proposed by Dr. Benjamin Feingold in 1973, stated that salicylates, petroleum-based preservatives and artificial colorings and flavorings caused hyperactivity in children. Hyperactivity is now also known as Attention Deficit Disorder [ADD] or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD]. He also wrote a book on this, for those of you who wish to do reading on the subject, the title is Why Your Child Is Hyperactive. The official site of the Feingold Diet program can be found here.

I for one am very much for the consumption of natural foods, which is why the Feingold Diet interested me. However, the diet is not without its detractors. Although a lot of parents swear by its efficacy, the National Advisory Commission on Hyperkinesis and Food Additives says that Feingold's hypothesis was "based on clinical findings and not on rigorous clinical trials or experimental research". It also has to be known that the Feingold Diet prohibits the intake of some fruits and vegetables.

There are other factors, of course, which affects hyperactivity in children. It could be a whole gamut of things and changing your child's diet may not make the condition magically disappear. However, since more and more parents are looking to pre-prepared meals and processed food nowadays due to it's convenience, a child's diet should be looked at first before resorting to any medication. Read more about the Feingold diet, then consult a pediatric dietitian about it. Make sure that you are well informed first before deciding anything.

Friday, January 2, 2009



Hi I'm back, hope all y'all had a nice holidays!