BabiesHealthParenting FailsPseudoscience

My Pediatrician Said What?

You could treat her cold with something homeopathic?

It was the last thing I expected out of the mouth of my pediatrician. Or was it? Suddenly I’m Chazz Palminteri at the end of The Usual Suspects. Bits and pieces of our past conversations are now in sharp relief: Takoma Park Food Co-opBabies don’t come with a manual (Duh. That’s why there’s…Neti pots.

I’ve never met anyone so obsessed with neti pots.

The thing is that I really don’t like confrontation. “Well,” I tried to explain, diplomatically, “my understanding is that those remedies don’t actually contain …anything. Like…at all.” And then we just kind of stared at each other.

There was a time when I would have been thrilled to have my doctor recommend a homeopathic remedy — when I spent my days fantasizing about my future VBAC and reading Naomi Wolf (Her motherhood phase, not her vagina phase.).

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered homeopathy was basically just water. I had always assumed that term meant something like “expensive natural remedy.”  I had no idea the theory of homeopathy rests on the magical memory of water until I watched this awesome Skepchick video.

“Oh it’s certainly not nothing, “ she answered. “The theory is that the cure comes from a bit of what made your sick. Similar to allergy treatments.”

“I know the theory. My understanding is that the evidence does not support homeopathy.“ I chewed on my lip.

“It’s been used in Europe for a very long time. There are schools in the U.S. dedicated to its study. I’ve had great success with homeopathy for years.  And it’s regulated by the FDA just like any other drug.

In my head: Don’t care. Don’t care. Don’t care. Uh, WTF? Regulated? I read up on that gem later: The FDA does regulate homeopathic products – their labels and what active ingredients may be called homeopathic – but these remedies do not have to undergo the rigorous scrutiny that prescription drugs do. That is, they don’t have to work.

Out of my mouth: “What does the evidence say? That’s all I’m interested in.“

“Well, if you want to talk evidence…you know, the evidence doesn’t support giving traditional medicine to babies with colds either.”

“Right, that’s why I didn’t give her any. That’s why I came here.”

“I’m sorry. You obviously feel uncomfortable.”

Yes, yes. The most important concern here is my feelings.

I know what I need to do. I know I need to get a new pediatrician. But this is kinda sorta the only pediatric office that is both conveniently located and never has much of a wait time. Never has much of a — Oh. Right. Now that’s clear too.

Featured image via flickr user Bart Everson.

Jenny Splitter

Jenny Splitter is a writer, storyteller and over-scheduled mom of two living in Washington, DC. She spends her glamorous days trying to write whatever she can, counting 1-2-3 in a slow yet threatening manner to her children, playing with gluten and working to eradicate dog hair from the planet (or at least her home). Find her on Twitter , Google+ and Facebook

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  1. Your pediatrician is scary in that seemingly benign, “do what feels right” sort of way, and this is the comment that would worry me most (on top of the recommendation for homeopathy: “Well, if you want to talk evidence…you know, the evidence doesn’t support giving traditional medicine to babies with colds either.” The comment is illogical and shows terrible judgment (assuming that by “traditional,” she means “FDA approved,” and “real”):

    FACT: there is no evidence that cold medicine helps babies, and can be dangerous for them. There is no evidence that homeopath helps anyone and can be dangerous
    LOGICAL CONCLUSION: don’t use either real medicine or make-believe medicine on your child.
    CRAZY DOCTOR CONCLUSION: then use make-believe medicine on your child.

    I hope you find another doctor soon. . .sucks about the wait times.

  2. Thank you. It’s really mind-blowing to me that someone can go to medical school and spend decades in the medical profession (she’s near retirement age) but want to embrace something that is not all supported by science. I wonder if something pushed her in that direction. Then again, maybe she’s just crazy!

  3. My pediatrician recommended a homeopathic remedy for teething to me and we had a similarly uncomfortable conversation. He did admit that homeopathy “didn’t test well”, but swore that in his experience “it works”. I (also not being a huge fan of confrontation) told him that I was sure he had more experience than I did in these matters, but wasn’t that same sort of anecdotal evidence given by some to link the MMR shot to autism, and then not vaccinate their kids? Didn’t that claim also “not test well”?
    He said my point was well taken and hasn’t (yet) offered me another homeopathic remedy.
    Ugh. I hate that we even had to have the conversation.

  4. My GP is full of woo. And I’m always astounded by the cognitive dissonance, because she does good actual medicnie, too, doing lots of clinical tests and so on. She’s also very caring and dedicated, she and her husband definitely saved my mothers life last year when they went well beyond their duty of care to talk that stubborn mule into going to a hospital.
    Still, she’s big on “prevention” and there’s lots of cofirmation bias.
    For example, I have problems with one liver value. It’s always off, some times more than at others.
    She did all kinds of testing, ultrasound, blood testing, making sure I did not have Hepatitis, offering me to refer me to the university hospital, talking about my nutrition and alcohol consumption, giving me different painkillers cause Tylenol stresses the liver and so on. So, the penultimate time I was there it was really, really off. So she recommended “cleansing earth to detoxify”. Whenever I hear the words “cleanising” and “detoxify” I sigh. My strategy is simply nod and ignore. Last time it was quite good, as good as it hasn’t been in a long time.
    She triumphantly declared it a success of the cleansing earth.
    “Uhm, I didn’t take that”
    My paediatricians are thankfully better, but I fear for when the will retire (they’re both around 60). There’s another one in town, and I had to go to them several times when ours were on holiday and a GP who wears a “Power Bracelet” does not give me confidence. Or who’d fill a prescription for a kid they’ve never seen

  5. I’ve been lucky in that all of the doctors that I’ve had for myself and my kids have been steeped in the science of medicine. In fact, I had a conversation today with my eye doctor about the optical properties of bifocal contact lenses. Then again, I was raised in Massachusetts and live in Omaha, NE. Both places are known for their excellent medical schools, so maybe that is why.

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