Traditional Chinese Medicine for kids, or TCM for kids, is a proactive approach to health that is based on more than 3,500 years of Chinese medical practice. Unlike the typical western approach where treatment is sought after contracting an illness, TCM for kids builds up the body’s immunity and prevents illnesses from occurring.
We sought advice from Physicians Lam Yun Shan and Teo Chun Huat of the Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution regarding common concerns about TCM for kids that parents have. Both physicians have a Master Degree in TCM (Paediatrics) and Double Degree B.Sc.(Honours) in Biomedical Sciences and B.Medicine (Chinese Medicine).
Top things to know about TCM for kids
1. Babies less than 6 months old can go for TCM treatment
The average age of young patients range from 3 to 8 years old, but there are infants as young as six months old who are on TCM for kids. Even young infants below the age of six months old can seek treatment.
However, due to the differences in body constitution, age and weight, special care is taken when selecting the type of herbs used as well as the correct dosage to prescribe. Thus, parents should follow the recommended dosage and not feed more than necessary.
Any child can be started on TCM as long as they are willing to accept it, under the direction of an experienced and licenced TCM physician. TCM treatments can provide relief for common ailments such as flu, cough, allergic rhinitis or constipation. TCM paediatric massage, or tuina, is a form of treatment suitable for babies. It is a gentle massage on acupoints to treat illnesses.
2. TCM paediatric massage is a non-invasive treatment that improves immunity
TCM paediatric massage is based on TCM theory. The physician stimulates acupoints on the child’s body through specific massage techniques, which regulates the child’s organ system, promotes circulation, regulates energy and blood. All these aim to improve the child’s physique and immunity.
3. Acupuncture is rarely used on children
Acupuncture is another method of treatment in TCM that is generally safe for children. The reason why it is rarely used is because children tend to have a fear of needles and are unable to tolerate the treatment. There is a slight pain during acupuncture, but some children start crying even before the acupuncture needle is inserted.
Therefore, most TCM physicians prefer to use other treatment methods. If there is really a need to use acupuncture, fewer needles will be used and then removed right after stimulation.
4. Common illnesses can be treated with TCM for kids
Cough and flu are caused by external pathogens and deficiencies in the body. When the body’s immunity is weak, external pathogens can invade the lungs through the mouth, nose and skin and impair its function. When lung function is impaired, symptoms will appear.
TCM physicians will first assess the symptoms by checking the patient’s tongue and pulse and tailor a customised medicine for the child to ensure it suits his/her body constitution. TCM medicine seeks to restore the body’s balance by removing the external pathogens and nourishing deficiencies.
5. TCM medicine can be mixed with honey to make it more appealing to children
There is a popular Chinese saying that “Effective medicine is bitter to the mouth”. However, this is not true as not all TCM herbal medications are bitter. Some children find the herbal concoction palatable, while others find their medicine too bitter.
If your child refuses to take medicine, TCM herbal medicine can be given in smaller doses and gradually increased. It is safe to mix the medication with some honey to mask the herbal taste when feeding.
6. TCM can complement Western medicine to aid in recovery
There is often no conflict between the two kinds of treatment and TCM can complement Western medicine to improve the efficacy and rate of recovery. However, ensure that the two medicines are consumed at least two hours apart and that TCM is only consumed after meals.
7. Only consult licensed TCM physicians
In Singapore, physicians are licensed under the TCM Practitioners Board (TCMPB) and hold a valid practising licence. When looking for a TCM physician, you can research to find a suitable physician to treat your child, as each has their own fields of expertise.
For children, ensure that the physicians have relevant knowledge to treat paediatric conditions.
8. TCM is not suitable for emergencies
TCM paediatric massage and medicine are unsuitable if your child has potentially life-threatening conditions that are considered emergencies. Examples of these include high fever, breathing difficulties, food poisoning, appendicitis, severe pain, fractures and the like.
Instead, please bring your child to a paediatric emergency department.
9. TCM for kids can build up immunity
In TCM theory, the human body is a whole that functions normally when Yin and Yang are constantly regulated. When the flow of healthy energy through the body is disrupted, the body’s defence is weakened and illnesses occur when external pathogens like bacteria and viruses attack the body. TCM paediatric massage and medicine builds up the child’s healthy energy and strengthens the organs, building up immunity and body constitution.
As TCM focuses on ensuring that the flow of energy is regulated throughout the body, TCM paediatric massage can be done even when there are no signs of illnesses. The next time your child contracts a common illness, TCM may be able to provide some respite.