Saturday, May 26, 2012

When The Child Becomes The Parent

It's funny the relationship between a mother and a child isn't it? The mother tends to her child from the day she first finds out she's pregnant - nourishing, caring & of course worrying. During the subsequent formative years she continues to put her child's needs before hers rarely ever looking back and rarely regretting the sacrifices she made. So much so that even when she's reached the stage where getting through life becomes a Herculean effort, she still wants to be the carer in the relationship, the dependable one, the strong one. Yet at the same time you, as the child, can see the vulnerability, the sense of hopelessness and that never ending guilt in your mother as a result of her needing you. That's the moment where you, the child, become the parent. The one who will set aside the need to be held and instead be the one to hold. The one who will not shed tears and instead be the one to wipe them away. The one who will comfort and spoil, the one who will make sure all vitamins are taken on time, the one who will put fears to rest. 

Being a mother to your children is a hard job but being a mother to your mother is even harder.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Coping With Crappy Conjuctivitis

If you've had a child with Conjunctivitis, you know why part of my title has the not-so-articulate word "crappy" in it. 'Coz it sucks and it sucks big time i.e. it's crappy. Waking up to my eyes glued together by yucky, gooey gunk is not my idea of a great start to the day. If you're a child, imagine that frustration 100 times over. Nope, Pink Eye, much as I love the colour pink, is not my cup of tea and yet I've had the fortune of having it a few times in my life which leads me to the bad news about this specific ailment   - it is CONTAGIOUS!!!  Don't underestimate (..the things that I will do..there's a fire burning in my heart..sorry I digress) this please because it is next to impossible to avoid contracting conjunctivitis once someone has it in the house. You have to have a super duper immune system and start dosing as soon as it rears its evil head in the house and even then, chances are you will get it. It's like death and taxes..inevitable.

Inevitable though it may be, there are some really easy things you can do to help ease your child's discomfort. Not even going to go into immunity boosting as I've mentioned it enough in previous know the drill!! Boosting immunity at the first sight of a cold is most important as more often than not, Pink Eye will develop after a cold. Please note that all bouts of Conjunctivitis are *not* bacterial and therefore antibiotics, whether oral or via drops, may not always help. The following tips can be used for either. 

First things first. Make your child more comfortable by gently cleaning the gunk off his/her eyes. I like to do this with a combination of Chamomile & Eyebright tea which has been brewed for a good 10/15 minutes to activate the herbs' medicinal properties. I've mentioned Chamomile tea as an effective soothing agent - Eyebright is similar in that it helps reduce inflammation and as its name suggests, is especially useful in ailments of the eye. Use a clean cotton ball, dip in the tea and gently wipe across the eyelashes. It will take a few tries to get it all out, especially if it's a bad infection. Since the eyes can be sore and therefore hurt,  your child might resist having them touched - what has worked for me in the past is to first use the warm tea as a compress on closed eyes. The heat feels good and will help relax your child before you start to pry his/her eye lids open. You can also use the tea as a wash throughout the day - this will help soothe the achiness (spell check showed me raunchiness, really????) but will also help fight the infection.

Also effective for reducing swelling and discomfort is putting a warm (or cold if your child prefers it) teabag on the eyes. I would make R & Z lie down to nap and put them on while they slept, changing every so often.  A regular teabag works wonders here as the tannic acid in it helps both to soothe and draw infection out of the eye. Rosewater is another effective eye drop and antiseptic - there are people back home who have told me they believe rose water (pure water distilled from the rose i.e) actually helps improve eyesight as well. Others believe warmed milk eye drops work wonders - if you are nursing, breast milk is very effective both as a wash and in the form of eye drops. Goes without saying that it is antiseptic. Another favourite of mine is raw honey which I've said time and time again is a great antibacterial tool - dissolve some raw honey in warm water and administer as drops and use as a wash too ( I wouldn't recommend this for a very young child as the honey will sting - only for a second - but will sting nonetheless).

Most of us know that carrots are recommended for good eyesight so it is logical that Vitamin A is a useful supplement to have at hand for kids that are prone to recurrent infections of the eye. Prevention is better than cure so start introducing Vitamin A rich foods into your child's diet - look at my previous post to read about herbs such as Parsley & Thyme that are good sources. Also look at greens such as Romaine lettuce, Spinach & Kale. These will all help your child heal faster even when they're in the throes of an active infection so consider upping intake for the entire family during an outbreak.

For those of you that have kids with allergies, you may find that they develop eye infections with bad bouts - Vitamin D is great for helping with allergies and Cod Liver Oil which contains Omega 3s and Essential Fatty Acids which are also invaluable for fighting allergies and asthma. 

Use an emollient under the eyes to prevent dryness and itchiness. You can add a drop of Lavender or Roman Chamomile Essential oil to help heal the infection via Aromatherapy as well.

Finally, homeopathy can help. Here are some of the common remedies for Conjunctivitis:

-- Apis Mellifica (keynotes are swollen, red & puffy eyes, better with cold, burning sensation)
-- Belladonna (keynotes are sudden onset, throbbing/bloodshot eyes, sensitivity to light)
-- Hepar Sulphuris Calcareum (keynotes are irritability, sensitivity to cold, warmth helps & yellow discharge)
-- Mercurius Solubilis (keynotes are green discharge, sensitive to both heat & cold, excess salivation)
-- Pulsatilla (keynotes clinginess, yellow/green discharge, weepy)

Fun fact: Tears and mucus contain an enzyme (lysozyme) that breaks down the cell wall of many bacteria, which helps keep the germs at bay. So let those tears flow (for once)!!!!


p.s please take your child to the pediatrician if he/she is showing signs of blurred vision, has extreme pain or the above remedies do not help within a few days.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Packing a Vitamin Punch With Herbs & Spices

Chances are you have at least one, if not more, picky eater in your family. Sound familiar? I feel your pain. I used to be one of those annoying moms who everyone hated because her children ate everything. Oh and I mean everything. Serve me right for being so vain because now my children will, at best, turn their nose up at everything. Well everything apart from Mac 'n' Cheese. Yuck! If I never have to make MnC again, it will be too soon! For those of you who are at wits' end because your children aren't getting enough vitamins & minerals, herbs & spices are a *great* way of sneaking some nutrition into your fussy eaters. This is going to be one of those posts I guarantee will make you stop and think, "Wow, I didn't know that!" - that was my exact reaction when I first Googled "the nutritional value of Thyme". Intrigued? Read on...

I have mentioned Thyme a lot in my previous posts, namely in relation to coughs, as it is such a great expectorant. What I didn't know was just how much nutritional 'punch' it actually had. Did you know that just 100g of fresh Thyme leaves contain large amounts of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin A, C, B-6 & even dietary fibre? You can add Thyme to soups, pasta/pizza sauces and chicken marinades. If your children are like mine and are fond of tea, you can boil the leaves in some fresh, filtered water and add honey to sweeten. For those parents with anaemic kids that are desperate to get some Iron into their kids, this is a fantastic way to bridge some of the gap. 

Let's move on to Nettle. You may have had Nettle tea during your pregnancy if you had a midwife that tended to you as Nettle has a high percentage of Calcium and Vitamin K (Vitamin K is known for its blood clotting properties and in fact, babies in the US are routinely and controversially given a K shot at birth). Nettle is also a great source of protein oddly enough and I read somewhere that 1 serving of Nettle provides as much protein as a sink full of Kale! Add in the fact that Nettle is great for asthma and allergies and you've got yourself a super food! 

Having fun yet?! (Okay so I'm a little crazy, I'll admit it. It's also kinda late and I'm sleepy so don't be too harsh when judging)

Next stop and one of my faves, Fennel Seed. Fennel is a carminative as I've said before and is wonderful for tummy ailments. My usual use for it is in my Tummylicious Tea recipe but was pleasantly surprised to find out that it has high concentrations of Calcium, Iron & Vitamin C! I love the taste of Fennel and can have it by itself but the easiest way to give it to a smaller child is in the form of a tea.

You may have heard of Turmeric, another spice that is known for its antioxidant & antiseptic properties. Turmeric is great at fighting infection and people in the subcontinent use it for a variety of different  ailments ranging from arthritis to coughs. It has a high proportion of the mineral Manganese which activates enzymes needed to absorb several key nutrients in the body e.g. biotin which is needed for healthy hair and skin. It also has large amounts of Iron and also Potassium. In Pakistan, we add Turmeric powder to our curries so it is part of everyday cooking. You can make a tea out of it or add a few shakes to honey to give to your child. 

Parsley is a good herb to have at hand for both taste buds and nutrition alike! It is an excellent source of Vitamin A, C & K and also has good amounts of Iron, Folate & Potassium. Use fresh leaves on pizza or add it to sandwiches. I use it often as a topping for Garlic Bread and salads. It is rich in flavonoids which are antioxidants that help fight infections.

This is just a sampling of herbs & spices that you can use to enhance your child's vitamin and mineral intake. Other common herbs include Basil, Peppermint, Coriander & Dandelion and spices such as Black Pepper, Cloves & Cinnamon all of which have something to offer when it comes to fighting disease and strengthening the body overall. 

Spice up your life!