Is it ok to treat your kid’s ailments with Traditional Chinese Medicine? We ask Eu Yan Sang’s senior TCM physician, He Qiu Ling, to answer your burning questions.
When can I start my child on TCM?
While most of her young patients are between the ages of one and seven years, Eu Yan Sang’s senior TCM physician He Qiu Ling says she has treated babies as young as one month old.
Miao Meng, a consultant TCM physician at Raffles Chinese Medicine, shares that babies and young tots can turn to such medicine to treat common childhood ailments like fever, colds and runny nose. But you should never feed your kid any herbal medication without consulting a licensed practitioner first.
And always stick to the recommended dosage. Babies and young children have a different body constitution from adults, so the selection and prescription dosage of medication would be in smaller amounts, too, explains Meng.
How do I get my kid to drink the bitter medicine?
Most Chinese herbal medications are dispensed in powdered form. The best way to take it is to dissolve it in some warm water, but you can also mix it with undiluted honey, syrup drinks, milk or porridge, says He. She adds that it’s a misconception that all Chinese herbal medications are bitter. “But it’s certainly a taste that one has to get used to. It’s also a matter of habit,” says He. “If your kid is exposed to the taste from young, he’s likely to be able to accept it quite easily.”
My kid is still coughing despite seeing the doctor two weeks ago. Should I try TCM?
Why not? Besides prolonged cough, you can also consider tui na or Chinese medicine for conditions like flu, sensitive nose, constipation, stomach ache, fussy eating and poor appetite, says He. She adds that Chinese medicine can go hand-in-hand with Western medication, but be sure to have a two-hour gap between consuming them.
What about high fever or food poisoning?
You should still go to a doctor if your child comes down with such conditions that require urgent medical attention, the experts advise. TCM can, however, be helpful for recurring low-grade fever.
How do I choose a TCM physician for kids?
Like Western doctors, TCM physicians each have their own specialisation. Li Hua suggests doing your own research to find out which practitioner is experienced in treating paediatric conditions.
But first things first: Always choose a registered member from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board (TCMPB), she says. According to the Ministry of Health (MOH) website, anyone who wishes to practise TCM in Singapore must be registered with TCMPB and hold a valid practicing certificate issued by it. The TCMPB is a statutory board under MOH. It maintains the Register of TCM Practitioners in Singapore, accredits TCM schools and courses, and regulates the professional conduct and ethics of registered TCM practitioners.
Besides taking supplement pills, how can I boost my little one’s immunity?
According to He, paediatric tui na, which is suitable even for babies, helps to improve a child’s overall health by strengthening the immune system. For kids, the gentle and non-invasive session typically lasts about 30 minutes or less each, depending on age and condition. “Regular tui na can help your child feel less lethargic and improve his appetite,” she says. This, in turn, gets him to eat more, and also be more adventurous with food choices.
Is acupuncture safe for kids?
It is. But chances are, your child would probably start fidgeting or bawling even before the physician sticks a needle into his acupoint. That’s why most TCM practitioners would prefer not to treat kids with acupuncture, says He. However, older kids aged four and above suffering from myopia may benefit from such treatment, says Meng. As acupuncture is slightly painful, the physician will start off by applying less pressure for patients undergoing it for the first time.
“This helps the child to become familiar with the treatment and sensations. We don’t use numbing cream. In subsequent treatments, we’ll apply more pressure,” says Meng, adding that parents can help to distract the kids with toys and storytelling.
Is it true that acupuncture can improve my kid’s eyesight?
In TCM, myopia is believed to be related to the poor function of organs and blood circulation around the eye meridian, explains Meng. “As the condition is closely linked to the kidney and liver, acupuncture can help improve the condition in certain cases,” she says.
But the TCM experts added that results vary with each child. “Factors like whether the myopia is heredity and lifestyle changes play a part. For instance, good reading and writing posture, and how frequently the child is on the computer or any electronic device will make a difference to the treatment,” says He.
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