Tag: colic

Is There Evidence for That Therapy, or No?

What do you think of when you think of alternative medicine?

“…there’s no such thing as conventional or alternative or complementary or integrative or holistic medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t. And the best way to sort it out is by carefully evaluating scientific studies – not by visiting Internet chat rooms, reading magazine articles, or talking to friends.”

Paul Offit, MD on Do You Believe in Magic

Do you think of acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, or reflexology?

And do you wonder if they really work?

Evidence Based Medicine, or No?

Unfortunately, there are many things that parents do for which there is absolutely no evidence that they can actually help their kids.

Some parents are even encouraged to do them by well meaning pediatricians, who may not know the latest evidence about:

  • If her jaundice had been much worse, she would have gotten phototherapy, not sunlight.
    If her jaundice had been much worse, she would have gotten phototherapy, not sunlight. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

    exposing jaundiced babies to sunlight – not only does it not work, unless they were in the sun all day long (this is done in some parts of the world, but under tinted windows to block UV and infrared light), it isn’t very practical and the AAP advises against it

  • changing your child’s toothbrush after they have strep throat – a study has shown it is not necessary
  • alternating Tylenol and Motrin – it isn’t necessary, promotes fever phobia, and can be dangerous if you mix up the times or dosages
  • putting kids on a BRAT diet when they have diarrhea – not necessary and doesn’t help kids get better any faster

For other therapies, your pediatrician isn’t likely to recommend them unless they are a so-called integrative or holistic pediatrician.

“Attaching the word “therapy” to the back end of an activity is an attempt to give it a status it may not deserve – and that status is subsequently used to garner insurance coverage, hospital resources, consumer patronage, and research dollars. It is also used to constrain how we think about an intervention – implying that perhaps there is some specific mechanism as work, when none need exist.”

Steven Novella on Aroma”therapy”

These non-evidence based “therapies” include:

  • acupressure – acupuncture without the needles
  • amber teething necklaces – if your baby’s amber teething necklace doesn’t seem to be doing anything, it isn’t because it’s fake and not made of genuine Baltic amber, it’s because it’s a teething necklace…
  • aromatherapy
  • chiropractic care of newborns and infants – understand that chiropractors don’t adjust real dislocations or misalignments in your spine, but instead manipulate what they think are subluxations that block the flow of energy that prevent your body’s innate ability to heal itself from working. Since these subluxations can’t be seen on xray, it makes you wonder why they chiropractors do so many xrays, doesn’t it?
  • craniosacral therapy (osteopathy) – has to do with tides and rhythms of cerebrospinal fluid, which these practitioners think they can feel and manipulate…
  • dry or wet cupping – what’s next, leeches?
  • essential oils – they don’t even smell good a lot of the times…
  • gripe water for colic
  • Oscillococcinum will not prevent flu complications.
    Oscillococcinum will not prevent flu complications.

    homeopathic “medicines” for teething, colic, gas, and the flu, etc. – do you know what’s in Oscillococcinum, the homeopathic flu medicine? It’s a mix of the pancreatic juice, liver, and heart of a duck, although it is diluted so many times, it is only the memory of those substances that remain in the little pills you take. How does that help treat your flu symptoms?

  • hyperbaric oxygen therapy – this can actually help treat folks with carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness (divers), but HBOT isn’t going to help your autistic child
  • hypnosis and hypnotherapy for pain, anxiety, and insomnia – hypnosis might work as a distraction technique, but there is no good evidence beyond that
  • magic socks – please don’t make your kids wear ice-cold socks at night, either with or without first covering them with Vicks VapoRub. It’s as helpful as putting a raw, cut onion in their socks, which your shouldn’t do either…
  • magnetic field therapy – do your kids still wear one of those magnetic bracelets to “help” their balance?
  • mindfulness – while a nice idea and it may help you relax, it doesn’t have all of the health benefits that folks claim
  • restrictive and fad diets – from gluten-free diets for kids who don’t have Celiac disease to the GAPS and Gluten Free-Casein Free (GFCF) Diet, these diets don’t help, can be difficult and expensive to follow, and can be dangerous if kids don’t get all of the nutrients they need

Have you tried any of these therapies on your kids?

If you have, do you understand that they “work” by way of meridians (acupuncture), the memory of water, like cures like, and law of the minimum dose (homeopathy), energy and spinal fluid tides (craniosacral therapy), manipulating energy fields in your hands or feet (reflexology), and spiritual energy (Reiki)?

What’s the Harm of Trying Alternative Treatments?

But even if you don’t go to a holistic pediatrician that recommends any of these therapies that don’t work, does your pediatrician discourage you from trying them?

If they do, how strongly?

Do they say it isn’t going to work, so don’t do it, or do they use more permissive phrasing?

The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, tells parents that amber teething necklaces don’t work and pose a risk for strangulation and choking, but then gives advice for “parents who choose to use these necklaces.”

Since they don’t work, why not just tell them to save their money and not use them?

Do you ever wonder, what’s the harm in using these things that don’t work?

“Rather than getting distracted by alluring rituals and elaborate pseudoscientific explanations for how they work, we should focus on maximizing the non-specific elements of the therapeutic interaction, and adding that to physiological or psychological interventions that have specific efficacy.”

Steven Novella on EMDR and Acupuncture – Selling Non-specific Effects

If your pediatrician knows that homeopathic medicines aren’t going to work, but tells you to try them if you want, what are they going to let you try next – black salve, coffee enemas, colloidal silver, dry needling, earthing, faith healing, iridology, psychic surgery, slapping, tapping, or shamanism?

In addition to kids actually being harmed by many of these alternative therapies and by missing out on real medicine that could have helped them, putting so much focus on these non-evidence based “treatments” is a waste of time and money that could go towards really helping people.

And be many of the folks who pursue and push these types of alternative treatments also push myths and propaganda about vaccines or seek to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, choosing to follow a follow a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule that leaves their kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

Don’t be fooled.

Learn to be skeptical, stick to the evidence, and stick with medicine that works.

What to Know About Evidence Based Medicine

There is plenty of evidence that alternative therapies don’t work and can do harm. Stick with medicine that works to keep your kids safe and healthy.

More on Evidence Based Medicine

Treating Hard to Control Reflux

Acid reflux is common, especially for newborns and infants.

Many parents are surprised to know that reflux can affect older kids too though. Fortunately, reflux is temporary for most of these kids and can be easily treated.

It can be even easier to treat younger kids, most of whom don’t need any treatment if they are just messy and don’t have true acid reflux disease.

Happy Spitters and Reflux Symptoms

Children who spit up have acid reflux or more specifically gastroesophageal reflux (GER).

Many babies spit up or have reflux.
Many babies spit up or have reflux, but most are just “happy spitters” and don’t need treatment. Photo by Ryan Dickey (CC BY 2.0)

They may not have acid reflux disease though (GERD), with other associated signs and symptoms, such as:

  • refusing to eat
  • recurrent vomiting
  • weight loss or poor weight gain (failure to thrive)
  • irritability or trouble sleeping
  • respiratory symptoms, such as a chronic cough, hoarse voice or cry, or hard to control asthma, etc.
  • Sandifer syndrome – reflux plus head tilting and back arching

Without any of these symptoms, your baby who spits up, even if it is very frequent and it seems like they spit up a large amount each time, is likely what is classically called a “happy spitter.” If they are just messy, they don’t need any treatment and you can wait until they outgrow their reflux.

Remember – “Spit Happens.”

Older children with acid reflux might complain of heartburn, chest pain, or say that they have a sour taste in their mouth (sour burps).

Lifestyle Changes for Reflux

Once you recognize that your child has GERD and needs to be treated, you might start with these lifestyle changes:

  • avoiding milk and dairy products for two to four weeks if you are breastfeeding an infant with GERD
  • changing baby formula to an extensively hydrolyzed protein (Nutramigen, Gerber Extensive HA, Alimentum) or amino acid–based infant formula if your formula fed baby has GERD
  • thickening your baby’s formula (typically about one tablespoon of rice cereal per every one to two ounces of formula) vs switching to a baby formula for reflux (Enfamil AR or Similac Sensitive R.S.)
  • making sure you aren’t overfeeding your baby, including that you don’t re-feed your baby right after they spit up
  • avoiding seated and supine (on his back) positions after feedings, although you shouldn’t put your baby down prone (on his stomach) if he is going to fall asleep (risk factor for SIDS)
  • helping older children with acid reflux lose weight if they are overweight and making sure they don’t smoke or drink alcohol
  • encouraging older children to avoid acid reflux triggers, especially caffeine, chocolate, foods with acid, and spicy foods

When can you expect your infant’s reflux to go away? In most babies, reflux symptoms peak at about 4 months and go away by the time they are 12 to 18 months old. In older children, reflux symptoms generally go away after a few months of appropriate treatment.

Acid Reflux Medicines

If lifestyle changes aren’t working, your child with reflux likely needs medicine to treat his reflux.

These acid reflux medications include:

  • antacids – may be okay in older children with very rare symptoms, but not for routine use
  • histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) – such as Zantac (ranitidine) – works quickly, but may stop working over time (tachyphylaxis)
  • proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – such as Prevacid (over-the-counter for adults) and Nexium (Nexium packets are FDA approved for infants) – considered more potent and superior to H2RAs but may take up to four days to start working
  • prokinetic agents – rarely used because of side-effects

In general, if your child’s symptoms improve or go away within two weeks of taking an acid reflux medication, then you should likely continue it for at least two to three months.

Treating Hard to Control Reflux

What do you do when lifestyle changes and reflux medicines don’t work or symptoms return after you stop your child’s reflux medicine?

First, make sure you are giving the right medicine, the right dosage of medicine, and are giving it at the right time, keeping in mind that PPIs should be giving 30 minutes before a meal.

Next, consider if there are any other lifestyle changes that you can try. For example, you might encourage your older child with persistent reflux to eat smaller meals more frequently, avoid a bedtime snack, and you may even elevate the head of his bed by about 30 degrees.

Lastly, you might make sure that your child really does have reflux.

Just because your baby is fussy and wakes up a lot at night, it doesn’t automatically mean that he has reflux. It could instead be colic, or be related to a food intolerance or allergy, with breastfeeding mothers needing to go on a more restrictive diet or infants drinking a hydrolyzed formula might need to switch to an elemental formula (Elecare, Neocate, or PurAmino).

Older kids with difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), which is often blamed on acid reflux, might have post-nasal drip caused by allergies or a sinus infection, etc.

And even if truly spitting up, instead of GERD, a child might have any number of other conditions instead of GERD, from an intestinal obstruction to a metabolic disorder.

It is usually at this point, when classic acid reflux treatments aren’t working, that a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist would be a good idea.

What To Know About Acid Reflux

Acid reflux in kids is usually temporary and can often be controlled with lifestyle changes and medications, but unfortunately, acid reflux symptoms are not always caused by reflux, leading to some treatment failures.

For More Information on Acid Reflux