26 June 2020 - Quite often we discuss children as being miniature adults. However in relation to health this is further from the truth. The health of children is very different to the health of an adult and is treated very differently due to the development of key body systems, compliance and their developmental needs at the time. Working with children is an absolute delight; not only do they respond well to natural medicine but they also adapt quickly due to a short life history and the fighting nature of their body to adapt and thrive!
The Respiratory System
Children are particularly prone to respiratory conditions as the respiratory tract is not fully developed until around 6 years of age. Fast growth and development puts further strain on the metabolic rate, which means the child has an increased requirement for oxygen so respiratory activity is increased. The immune system is also not fully developed at birth, so at the same time as respiratory system development, the immune system is developing causing an increase in respiratory conditions. Reoccurring respiratory conditions in children is something to be concerned about as parents as this is a signal that your child’s body is unable to cope with it’s current environment or the development of these key body systems at that time.
The most common conditions we see in regards to the respiratory system include:
- The Common Cold and Influenza
- Ear infections
- Sinus congestion or hay fever
Nervous System Conditions
In children, the gut-brain connection has a very close relationship and often we do not think to support the nervous system, mood or behaviour via the digestive system. There are many neurotransmitters produced in the gut so the two-way connection is of significant importance when looking at the nervous system. A poorly functioning digestive system can lead to symptoms such as a reduction of neurotransmitters, altered immune function, leaky gut and the potential toxin build up, malnutrition and also because the child is not equipped to be able to communicate what they are experiencing.
High stress can also play significant effects on the digestive system via the gut-brain axis so it is not only one way, it is a bidirectional pathway that needs support in children. Children are highly receptive to their environment and what is happening around them; unfortunately they have the limited capabilities to sometimes understand completely what is going on and can find this challenging which can be demonstrated in symptoms such as anxiety, stress and sleep disorders.
Digestive System Conditions
An adult’s digestive system covers the entire surface of a tennis court and from the time of birth, the digestive system of a child is growing at a significant rate. In addition before a child is born their gut microbiome is very limited and is established throughout childhood. Gastric upsets are common and can be functional as well as organic. A changing diet from a newborn to a teenager at times needs further support to ensure the child is eating nutrients that will support their growth and development.
The most common digestive conditions we see include:
- Poor Appetite and Weak Digestion
- Food Intolerances
- Intestinal Worms
- Constipation or Diarrhoea
The skin is a fluid barrier which is one of the first line defences of the immune system with interaction from our hormones and the nervous system. The skin also gives us a general indicator of health status and whether any body system is overwhelmed during the developmental process or with elimination of toxins from the body.
To strengthen the skin barrier and address skin conditions involves supporting the immune and digestive system and also providing topical preparations to address the problem at the skin surface.
Some of the most common skin conditions we see include:
- Dermatitis and Nappy Rash
- Cold Sores
All children will experience wetting/soiling accidents especially at the transition from nappies to using a toilet, that being said, untreated issues can spiral into physical, behavioural and developmental concerns so if you are concerned, please seek assistance. Not only do we have a gut microbiome, but we also have a urinary microbiome that is impacted by our digestive health as well as our immune system and these systems may need additional support at times throughout childhood.
Urinary Tract Infections and bed wetting are two of the most common conditions we see and can assist to support.
As you can see the health of a child is variable to their age, development and also the bodies ability to adapt to the environment they are in. Seeking health assistance can be beneficial at times to preventing reinfection or clearing a stubborn condition. If you feel that your child needs support, Natalie, our naturopath is here to assist!
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