Home remedies that work — and don't

By PENDA HONEYGHAN

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

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ONE of the greatest challenges of parenting is deciding on the best care for children especially when they are ill. And while some illnesses will demand a doctor's attention, many parents have been opting for home remedies to treat other common childhood illnesses.

Paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith said that while some home remedies may be effective, she cautions parents against choosing home remedies as go-to solutions for life-threatening illnesses which may present as common illnesses, such as the cold or flu.

“Home remedies are simply prepared medication or tonics often of unproven effectiveness administered without prescription or professional supervision to treat ailments. These may consist of plants and other substances and are usually passed from person to person — namely inter-generational, by oral tradition — sometimes with variable recipes to make the same potion or tonic,” Dr Griffith said.

Dr Griffith warned that since there are no regulations governing the make-up of these remedies, it is best to avoid administering these to children as a measure of caution.

She further noted that common household products found in the pantry or medicine cabinet such as salt, baking soda, lime, lemon and other citrus fruits, as well as herbs such as peppermint, aloe vera and rosemary, are much safer for use.

These medications, according to Dr Griffith, are usually administered in much the same way that pharmaceuticals are given to children including by application to the skin, whether directly or as a poultice or soak; in liquid form such as in warm teas and drinks; or by way of inhalation.

Below Dr Griffith shares some common home-made remedies approved by doctors that parents have used for decades to treat some common ailments in their children.

Salt water

Salt water or saline has many uses, including to gargle a sore throat and to soak bruises that occur in soft tissue, like the mouth and genital tract, using a sitz baths. Other uses include cleaning eyes when there is excess mucus, and in its humidified form to soften the mucus blocking the airways and decrease congestion.

Honey and lime

Honey and lime have been used as a signature combination in the treatment of flu and colds. The lime is said to dry up congestion, while the honey soothes. Honey by itself has even been touted for its benefits in treating inflammation of the throat as well acts as a cough suppressant. Dr Griffith warned that this should be avoided in children below one year old.

Ginger root or ginger tea

Ginger has been found to be very effective in treating nausea and soothing some stomach irritations. Research suggests that ginger halts stomach contractions, which results in nausea. She said that this can either be given as a tea or grated and administered with honey to encourage the child to consume it. This remedy is commonly used by parents with children who struggle with motion sickness.

Aloe vera or milk

Aloe vera and milk are used in the treatment of skin irritations such as sunburn.

Sponge baths

Fevers can be managed using sponge baths using room temperature water. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen may be utilised for pain and fever, but the dosing instructions must be strictly adhered to.

Ice packs

Ice packs are good for sprains and swellings.

She also said there are some common practices which can prove to be dangerous and which you should avoid at all costs. These include:

1. Sponge bathing in rubbing alcohol. Some people mistakenly use rubbing alcohol soaks to bring down high temperatures in children with fever. Besides the danger of skin absorption, this treatment exposes the child to inhalation of alcohol vapours which get into the bloodstream. Children who have large amounts of isopropyl alcohol in the blood can experience nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and even coma.

2. Administering diphenhydramine for fever.

3. Using aspirin and aspirin-containing agents for fever and pain in children.

4. Use of bush teas. These can cause irreversible damage to the liver and other organs, especially when used in excessive amounts.

Dr Griffith warned that parents must seek medical guidance in cases where improvement is not seen within a few days.

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