While most of her young patients are between the ages of 1 and 7 years, He Qiu Ling, the associate senior physician at Eu Yan Sang, says she has treated babies as young as 1 month old.
Why so young? Miao Meng, a consultant TCM physician at Raffles Chinese Medicine, shares that babies and young tots can turn to TCM medications to treat common childhood ailments like fever, colds and runny nose. But, you should never self-diagnose and feed your kid any herbal medication without consulting a licensed practitioner first.
Always stick to the recommended dosage, too. 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.
About the 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,” He explains. “If your kid is exposed to the taste from young, he or she is likely to be able to accept it quite easily.”
What it May Treat
You can consider tui na (therapeutic massage) or Chinese medicine for conditions like the flu, sensitive nose, constipation, fussy eating and stomach ache, says He. (Tip: Chinese medicine can work hand-in-hand with Western medication. Just be sure to have a two-hour gap between consuming them.)
Tui na, in particular, can help improve a child’s health by strengthening the immune system, and is said to be suitable even for babies. For little ones, the gentle and non-invasive session typically lasts about 30 minutes or less, depending on age and condition. “Regular tui na can help your child feel less lethargic and improve his or her appetite,” she says. This, in turn, gets him or her to eat more, and also be more adventurous with food choices.
Picking the Right Doc
First things first: Always choose a registered member from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board (TCMPB). Why? Anyone who wishes to practise TCM in Singapore must be registered with TCMPB and hold a valid practicing certificate issued by it, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH) website. (Just SYK, 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.)
Beyond that, like Western doctors, TCM physicians each have their own specialisation. So, do your research to find out which practitioners are experienced in treating paediatric conditions, such as those consulted here as well as Thomson Chinese Medicine, which specialises in treatments for women and children.
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It is. But, chances are, your child would probably start fidgeting or bawling even before the physician sticks a needle into his or her acupoint. That’s why most TCM practitioners prefer not to treat kids with acupuncture, expains Eu Yan Sang’s He. However, older kids aged 4 and up suffering from myopia (nearsightedness) may benefit from such treatment, says Meng from Raffles Chinese Medicine. As acupuncture can be 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.
You should still see a Western doctor if your child comes down with such conditions that require urgent medical attention (e.g., high fever, food poisoning), experts advise.
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.
This article first appeared on Young Parents, February 2020 / The Finder Kids, Vol. 28 / Photos: 123RF.com
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