How to Raise a Healthy Child … In Spite of Your Doctor by Robert S. Mendelsohn

How to Raise a Healthy Child … In Spite of Your Doctor

by Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D.

Copyrighted 1984, this out-of-print book is a real gem.  Surprisingly (or should I say, unsurprisingly), not much has changed in medicine since then.  Yes, we have fancier treatments for illnesses, but the basics are still the same, and the same problems that were created by pediatricians in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s are still perpetuated by some doctors today.  This book really speaks to my natural health leanings.  I appreciate its information on illnesses that a parents can reasonably take care of at home and how to do that, but also when to take a child for professional medical help.  The best way to explain what this book is about is to share with you the table of contents with each chapter and its contents listed:

  1. Most things get better by morning.  Why most childhod illnesses do not require medical treatment, and needless treatment may do more harm than good.
  2. Parents and grandparents are wiser than doctors.  Why you are a better guardian of your child’s health than your doctor is; how to tell when your child is really sick; how to know when to call a doctor.
  3. How doctors can make healthy kids sick.  Shortcomings of pediatricians; damange done by unnecessary treatment; invalidity of standard growth charts; why you should avoid routine physical examinations and well-baby checkups.
  4. Protecting your children before they are born.  Threats to your child’s health before he is conceived, during pregnancy, during labor, during delivery, and in the hospital nursery.  (Yes, this man is a fan of natural childbirth!)
  5. Proper nutrition for health and growth.  The importance of breastfeeding; when to introduce solid foods; the pre-adolescent diet; why you should choose natural foods, unprocessed and untainted by chemical additives.  (Remember, this book came out almost 25 years ago!  Does any of this sound familiar today?)
  6. What you should expect of your child.  Why comparisons of physical and behavioral development don’t make sense; common parental concerns about physical development and childhood behavior; what you have the right to expect and what you don’t.
  7. Fever: Your body’s defense against disease.  Exploring the myths about fever; what’s “too high;” should fevers be controlled?; fever and convulsions; fever and brain damage; the value of fever in fighting disease; Quick Reference Guide to Fever
  8. Headache: Usually emotional, but the pain is real. Causes of headaches; headaches as a symptom of disease; what treatment to give; when a doctor is needed.  Quick Reference Guide to Headaches
  9. Mother, my tummy hurts! Causes of abdominal pain; when it requires treatment; emotional causes; allergies; appendicitis; poison.  Quick Reference Guide to Abdominal Pain
  10. Coughs, sneezes, and runny noses.  Facts about the common cold and influenze; overtreatment of symptoms; misuse of antibiotcs for viral infections; pneumonia; croup.  Quick Reference Guide to Coughs, Colds, and Influenza
  11. The mythical menace of strep throat.  Causes of sore throat; misconceptions about strep, rheumatic fever, and rheumatic heart disease; beware of tonsillectomies.  Quick Reference Guide to Sore Throats
  12. Earaches: Painful, Yes; Dangerous, Rarely.  Treatment of ear infections; objects in the ear; removing wax; use of antibiotics, tympanostomy (that’s tubes in the ears – that’s what I had as a kid); the once-feared mastoid; relieving pain; when to see a doctor.  Quick Reference Guide to Earaches
  13. Protecting your child’s vision.  Value of periodic eye exams; glasses for children; crossed eyes; lazy eyes; conjunctivitis (pink eye); styes; myths about eyes.  Quick Reference Guide to Eye Problems
  14. Skin problems: the curse of adolescense.  Diaper rash; heat rash; acne and Accutane; impetigo; eczema; ringworm.  Quick Reference Guide to Skin Problems
  15. Skeletons in the orthopedic closet.  Overtreatment of self-correcting conditions; flat feet, bowed legs, knock-knees, pigeon toes, congenital hip dysplasia, scoliosis; myths about shoes  Quick Reference Guide to Orthopedic Problems
  16. Accidental Injuries: Medicine at its best.  What to do when your child has an accident; cuts and abrasions; burns; head injuries; poisoning; sprains, strains, and fractures; choking; animal bites; frostbite; automobile accidents; household safety precautions  Quick Reference Guide to Accidental Injuries and Household Safety Precautions
  17. Asthma and allergies; try diet, not drugs.  (Boy, isn’t THIS all over the alternative health world these days!)  Allergies as the cause of illness; types of allegies; diagnosing allergic causes; use of elimination diets; hazards of drugs used in treatment; controlling asthma  Quick Reference Guide to Allergies
  18. The child who never sits still.  Overdiagnosis of hyperactivity; dangers of drug treatments; dietary control of overactivity; sense and nonsense about learning disabilities; the inadequacy of psychological and psychiatric counseling
  19. Immunization against disease: a medical time bomb?  (Boy, isn’t this SUPER relevant today?)  The risks of immunization; is immunization beneficial and necessary?; when to seek treatment for childhood diseases; symptoms and home treatment of chicken pox, mumps, measles, rubella, whooping cough, diphtheria, scarlet fever, meningitis, tuberculosis, SIDS, poliomyelitis, infections mononucleosis
  20. Hospitals: where patients go to get sick!  Why you should avoid hospitalization of your child if possible; the frequency of hospital-caused illnesses; the emotional trauma of hospitalized children; how to protect your child in the hospital; needless surgery
  21. How to select the right doctor for your child.  The threat posed by an excess of pediatricians; a doctor’s psychological and financial incentives to overtreat patients; the hallmarks of a competent, conscientious pediatrician

Dr. Mendelsohn is regarded today as a doctor ahead of his time.  While some of the information in this book is a bit outdated, it’s stunning to realize how many of these topcs are still very relevant today.  Interestingly, a few years after writing this book, Dr. Mendelsohn wrote another book called Confessions of a Medical Heretic.  So, obviously writing his first book didn’t win him many friends.  Yet so many of his ideas are becoming standard in parenting today, especially among parents who are trying to take a more natural approach to raising their children.

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One thought on “How to Raise a Healthy Child … In Spite of Your Doctor by Robert S. Mendelsohn

  1. i agree, another thing doctors do is give kids cough and cold medicine.

    As a dad and a doctor, I find this a very scary topic. I used to think that as long as my patient’s or I dosed the children’s cold & cough medications right, then everything would be OK. But when I researched this further, it turns out that children have died from “over dose” of ALL THE MAJOR CHILDRENS COLD AND COUGH MEDICINES even when given the correct dose (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/108/3/e52?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=cough+medications&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT).

    Here are a few interesting facts:

    1. Last October 2008, the drug companies promised the FDA that they would change all their labeling to say “do not use” for children under the age of 2, but I was just in the store last week, and a number of packages still had the old labeling!

    2. The FDA reviewed safety and effectiveness data this last fall and its expert panel said that “right now the current cold & cough medications should not be given to children under 6.” Here is a link to the FDA’s minutes, “http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/07/minutes/2007-4323m1-Final.pdf”, see page 6. The FDA made a public advisory in January 2008 about never using it for children under 2, because the Drug companies are fighting them on the panels ruling to never use cold and cough medications on children 2 to 6. Since these drugs were previously allowed by the FDA, the FDA is forced to go though “due process” before they are willing to make an official public statement about never giving these medications to children 2 to 6.

    3. The number of infant deaths attributed to cold and cough medicines is dramatically underreported. New research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics demonstrated that there were at least “10 unexpected infant deaths that were associated with cold-medication” in 2006 alone in the state of Arizona. Extrapolated over the US and Canadian population, that would be over 500 deaths a year associated with cold-medication! (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/122/2/e318)

    The thing that the drug companies don’t want anyone to know is that these medications never underwent the rigorous safety and effectiveness studies modern medications have to go though, they we grandfathered in the early 1970’s because at that time experts felt like they seemed to work, and they seemed safe enough.

    Interestingly, some researchers from Penn State have shown that Buckwheat honey is better then the OTC drugs for children’s cough. There is a web site that talks about this, and gives lots of research to help parents be better informed about how to help their kids. Check out http://www.honeydontcough.com/

    -Daddydoctor

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