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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Kids and Placebo

Posted by Barack Levin on February 16th, 2011

I have very strong feelings about pills. Although, on a daily basis, I take about 30 or so pills to help me survive my kidney disease, I think that normal healthy people and especially kids, should try to avoid all of those meds (and that includes food supplements) at all costs.

I am not preaching here to avoid medication all together or not to provide medical attention to kids, but I do suggest thinking before you throw in the towel and pop one in, again, especially when it comes to kids. From my experience, kids are magnets to diseases but most of these are low grade viruses, low fever incidents and minor aches. Even though, their bodies can easily take care of these problems, we as parents get out the big guns and stuff their throats with off the shelf meds. I believe in another way. A much safer way in my opinion – Placebo. I prefer to use it as the first line of defense in such cases and only if it fails, to resort to meds.

A week ago, my son (6.5) was complaining about a leg ache. I know exactly what he is talking about. I have had those when I was a kid as well. The pain is in the bone and it does not go away. It is not an excoriating pain but it is very consistent and annoying. I was told that it might be due to growth spur, but I still do not know if that is true or not. In any case, my son started complaining. Usually, in cases like that, my wife massages his leg, he gets happy and goes to sleep, which is by the way another great Placebo solution. All he really need is the attention. I do not believe the massage does anything. This time the massage she gave him produced no satisfactory results. He continued to complain. The medical cabinet was the obvious option. A pain killer will probably do the trick, but I decided to use Placebo instead. It was not the first time. Until now every time he was given a Placebo, it worked, so I thought it should work again this time.

I told him I was going to give him a medication. He is old enough to know what it means. Telling him that is the first step to prepare his brain for a pain release. I went to the medicine cabinet and took out one of the pain killers measuring cups. He stayed in his room but heard me go there. That is the second step. Have him anticipate the drug and start using his internal mechanism to reduce the pain. Next, I went down to the kitchen and mixed some Cranberry juice (for the color) and Lemon Juice (to disguise it is only juice) in the plastic measuring cup. I got to his room and told him to drink his medicine. He did. I asked how it was and he said that it tasted sweet. “Good” I said “You should feel better in about 5 minutes” and here comes the last step. Instead of just leaving him there to think about the effects of the medication, I told him: “Do you want to build something with the Legos with me?” He loves to play with Lego and took out a set. We started playing. Within 5 minutes he stopped complaining about his leg. We played for about an hour and half with no complains. I was very satisfied that my plan worked, but it did not work for long. As soon as we were done and he was getting ready to go to bed, the pain returned. This time I understood that another Placebo would not do the trick and gave him a pain killer. After all he is my son and I do not want him to suffer. But, this was the first time that a Placebo did not work fully on him. I am thinking that I should have given it to him just before he went to sleep (like I always do) so that the affect of the Placebo will carry him to sleep. May be next time.

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