It’s that time of year again, back to school! The beginning of the school year can be chaotic and stressful for both children and parents alike; which is why naturopathic care and support is so important.
As a naturopathic doctor I help parents and families get back on track and ready for the routine of the school year by providing parents with solutions that reduce stress, help children cope with anxiety, and prevent common childhood health concerns.
Let’s talk about the most common concerns affecting our kids as they return to school.
1. Anxiety. Feeling anxious is a normal feeling, especially at times of change or increased stress. Maybe it’s the first time your little one will be away from you for an extended period of time for school/daycare or perhaps you have noticed your child experiences anxiety in new environments with new people. Other sources of stress for children include a death in the family, death of a pet, birth of a sibling, family conflict, moving, changing schools, holidays, bullies at school, peer pressure, starting a new activity, and so much more. It can be difficult for children to express their feelings using words so instead they may act out, withdraw, or begin to consistently complain of vague physical symptoms such as abdominal pain. This can be very difficult on parents as well.
2. Allergies. An allergy is a hypersensitivity to a normally harmless substance. Common allergens include: pollen, animal dander, household dust, mites, chemicals, and a variety of foods. Allergies primarily cause respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, cough, sneezing, itchy skin, & watery eyes. Allergies can also cause to headaches, fever, diarrhea, fatigue, stomach upset, and vomiting. Sometimes allergies symptoms occur seasonally and other times they are more chronic. Naturopathic doctors can help identify allergens and develop a plan to eliminate symptoms.
3. Common colds. Because your child’s immune system is developing it is not uncommon for your child catch a cold week after week. Common colds are viral infections caused by contagious viruses that travel from either hand to mouth/nose contact or through air droplets carrying infected secretions from sneezing or coughing near another person. Although a cold can occur at any time of the year, most colds occur during the winter months from October through February. Boosting your child’s immune system with nutrition and herbs can lessen the frequency of illness.
4. Ear infections. Ear infections also known as otitis media, is an infection that occurs in the middle ear. They commonly occur in childhood because the middle ear is connected to the nasal cavity and throat via a tube (the Eustachian tube). The Eustachian tube is oriented more horizontally than vertically in younger children which leads to less drainage and a build-up of fluid in the middle ear. When fluids build up it creates an ideal environment for bacterial growth. Ear infections can occur as a complication of a common cold. Most children outgrow ear infections as their bodies mature.
5. Eczema. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that appears as red, dry, flaking skin as well as areas of skin that are moist and oozing. Eczema is typically very itchy; when scratched the skin can crack and bleed. Repetitive itching can result in thickened, scaly skin. Eczema occurs due to atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is inherited, it appears during infancy, and often family members have a history of allergies and a history of eczema. This type of eczema can become worse when new foods are introduced. Contact dermatitis is more common and is a result of an allergic response to something a child has ingested. Eczema can also be caused by something your child’s skin comes in contact with, such as soaps, fabric dyes, cosmetics, wool, plants, and environmental toxins. Stress tends to exacerbate eczema.
6. Fever. Fevers in children are defined as a body temperate above 99.5°F/37.5°C when temperature is taken orally. Fevers can be caused by a wide variety of things including dehydration, overexertion, bug bites, bee stings, allergic reactions, or viral or bacterial infections. Fevers are usually not dangerous, rather it’s the body defending itself against an infectious invader. When your child spikes a fever it is important to watch how they are acting and observe for other signs and symptoms, such as skin changes/ rashes or respiratory symptoms. In mild fevers, intervention using fever-reducing medication isn’t necessary. In some fevers, there is a small risk of febrile seizures. Although seeing your child experience a febrile seizure can be very distressing there is no evidence that these types of seizures cause any permanent harm or lead to other seizure disorders. It is important that a doctor examine a child who has had a febrile seizure.
7. Food allergies. Allergic reactions to food can occur immediately (anaphylaxis) or be delayed and take days to emerge. Food allergies or sensitivities can lead to chronic health concerns including respiratory congestion, swelling in the eyes, itching/hives, abdominal pain/vomiting, acne, asthma, bedwetting, diarrhea or constipation, ear infections, eczema, fatigue, headaches, irritability, runny nose, and even difficulty concentrating. The most common food allergens are wheat, milk/other dairy products, eggs, fish/seafood, citrus fruits, soy, corn, nuts, and berries.
8. Lice. Head lice are tiny insects that attach to the scalp. Lice spread by direct contact from one infested child to another. It is a myth that lice are a result of poor hygiene. The most common signs of lice are complaints of an itchy head and persistent scratching. Lice appear as tiny grey lumps on the scalp. You may also see eggs or nits along the hair shaft. Aggressive treatment is necessary as soon as lice are detected due to its ability to spread quickly from child to child.
9. Sore throat. Most sore throats are a result of viral or bacterial infections. Other causes of sore throat include local irritants such as exposure to cigarette smoke, dust, environmental pollution, or dry air. Sore throats commonly occur in children during the late winter or early spring. A sore throat may be accompanied by a head cold, runny nose, or an ear infection. Although most sore throats are viral about 1/3 are diagnosed as ‘strep’, a bacterial infection caused by streptococcus. Strep throat needs to be evaluated by a doctor.
10. Warts. Warts are harmless growths most commonly found on the hands and feet. Warts can occur at any age but they are most common in childhood. Warts can be tender and painful but they will spontaneously disappear within 2 years.
How can a naturopath address common childhood health concerns?
Naturopathic doctors (ND) can address all these childhood concerns using natural, safe, and effective treatments. NDs focus on diet and nutrition; by eliminating aggravating foods, using specific diets (such as the elimination diet), or educating families about the medicinal properties of foods, patients can see improvement in symptoms within a short period of time.
Naturopaths work with patients to develop unique customized treatment plans that may incorporate the use of nutritional supplements to address specific health concerns. For example, bioflavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have specific anti-allergy effects.
Another form of treatment focuses on the medicinal properties in herbs and plants. Plants have been studied for their medicinal properties for centuries. A lot of conventional medications utilize the medicinal properties of plants. Naturopaths use the healing properties of dried herbs or liquid extractions.
Other safe and effective treatments for a variety of childhood concerns include homeopathic remedies and acupressure.
Naturopaths focus specifically on prevention of illness. They do this by evaluating factors that contribute to health such as lifestyle, environmental/household toxins, stress, social factors, and many other things. NDs offer full physical examinations, well-child check-ups, and lab testing for common blood tests and food sensitivity testing.
With less than a week to go before school starts up, now is the perfect time to see a naturopathic doctor to implement a preventive plan so you and your family can stay healthy throughout the year! Book your appointment now online or by calling Dr. Klein’s office (905) 683- 1616.
Yours in health,
Dr. Kate Klein, ND