Children and the Common Cold – Lingering Pathogens and Echo Patterns
An important concept in Chinese Medicine Pediatrics is that of lingering pathogens.
A lingering pathogen is a form of residual effect that is still in the body even though the body seems healthy and has no overt symptoms. This can range from retained fetal toxins from pregnancy, to the after effects of vaccinations, to the lingering aspects of viral, bacterial, or fungal infections. These are also referred to as “echo patterns.”
Some aspect of the disease process is still in the body and will show itself when the body is weakened or stressed, like an echo of the original illness. This can be described through the analogy of rocks in the ocean and the tides. The echo pattern is like the rocks and the tides are like the body’s energy. When the tide is high, the rocks are no longer visible and when the tide is low, the rocks can be seen. In the body, when our energy levels are high the pathogen stays in a latent, asymptomatic state and when our energy is low these lingering pathogens reveal themselves. It takes energy to keep things asymptomatic and this can compromise immunity and vitality. This also compounds the situation when a child gets a new illness, making the symptoms stronger.
Children are naturally prone to lingering pathogens due to their underdeveloped immune systems. One of the ways that children accumulate lingering pathogens is through the use of medicines. We see this played out when frequent bouts of antibiotics fail to cure tonsillitis or otitis media and the situation becomes chronic. The same could be said for not allowing a fever to break naturally or reducing a fever with ibuprofen. According to Chinese medicine, there’s a good chance that some of the pathogen will linger in the body as an echo pattern. Medications have their time and place, but it is important to be aware of their powerful effects on the body so we can use them wisely.
Pregnancy itself is a source of lingering pathogens in the body. The child clears itself out naturally but they still retain a certain amount of what is known as fetal toxins. Traditionally, diseases such as measles and chicken pox were seen as clearing out these fetal toxins and while potentially dangerous to some children, were beneficial to most. These fetal toxins can be from illnesses the mother had before or during pregnancy, her constitutional nature, spicy foods, hot weather, and to a certain degree from the general cloistered environment of pregnancy.
Another cause of lingering pathogens is immunization. In immunization, a minute amount of a pathogen is injected into the body, bypassing all the normal defenses of the body. This, combined with some of the unnatural ingredients in immunizations can leave the body with residual heat toxins from the vaccine. This is why we don’t recommend vaccinating a child when they are sick or run down. Their immune system is already fighting and it doesn’t make sense to increase the burden at that time. If you choose to vaccinate we recommend using acupuncture before and after the vaccination for optimal results.
Children also retain these echo patterns from situations like going back to school too quickly after an illness, or not getting enough rest following an illness. Seeing as children are prone to this, we cannot avoid it altogether and that is where treatment can help us eliminate as many of these patterns as possible. There are long-term motivations for clearing these. After about the age of 7, lingering pathogens are said to affect the emotional nature of a child. Their newfound ability to suppress emotion tangles the energetic nature of the echo patterns with the suppressed emotion. At around 14, the body’s powerful growth surge will clear out many pathogens naturally. Those that don’t clear at this opportunity are said to affect the child at the level of his personality and social interactions. The repressed emotions that are connected to the patterns are now externalized and projected onto the world. Beyond this, it is said that many of the ills of old age, or any age really, are due to the fact that when the tides of our energy lower, the dormant pathogens surface. And now they have had years to take hold and degenerate the body. This outlook provides a window into the potential of holistic pediatric care to positively affect a child over his or her lifespan.
By treating children with acupuncture and Chinese Medicine we can assist the body in clearing these patterns and pathogens thereby improving the function of the immune system. Here are some guidelines for using acupuncture to clear lingering pathogenic patterns:
- Bring your child in for a few visits within the first six months.
- If your child shows signs of weak immunity or recurring infection.
- If your child is recovering slowly and not quite back to their normal self after an illness.
- If there is a history of taking medications especially antibiotics, prednisone/steroids, fever-
- reducers, or ADD meds.
- If you choose to vaccinate, think about receiving acupuncture a few days before and after.
- Consider a series of acupuncture in the first year and around the ages of 7 and 14, especially if acupuncture has not been a part of your child’s regular healthcare.
- Bring your child in on a regular basis to keep these patterns from taking hold. This also allows the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship with your pediatric Chinese medicine provider to insure the best care for your child.
We look forward to meeting and getting to know your child!