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Integrated Medicine for Kids: Treating the Whole Patient

drpolaharDorothy E. Polahar, DO, DABFM, is board certified in family medicine. She also has training in integrative medicine, functional medicine, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine and a Master’s in athletic training and sports medicine. She practices at the Inova Steinmetz Integrative and Functional Medicine Center. Read Dr. Polahar’s profile.

Upset tummies. Sore throats. Skinned knees. Kids can get sick or hurt in all kinds of ways – but children are much more than a list of symptoms. In integrative medicine, we believe in treating the whole patient, not just a disease or body part. That’s true for our adult patients as well.

Integrative Medicine & Kids: What to Expect

Integrative medicine combines traditional Western medicine with alternative therapies such as medical acupuncture, nutritional supplements and osteopathic manipulation.

At our practice, we provide comprehensive care to children over age 5. That includes everything from annual check-ups to managing illness. We also see children under 5 for integrative medicine consultations, starting at birth. While we don’t provide comprehensive primary care for our youngest patients, we love having little ones in our office!

To me, the biggest difference between integrative medicine and traditional medicine is time. We spend an hour with our new patients, getting to know them and every concern they (or their parents) might have.

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We like to emphasize nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes over medications whenever possible.

I believe we’re often too quick to treat children with medications, such as antibiotics or drugs for gastroesophageal reflux. Such medications can have unintended side effects, like altering the population of good bacteria in the gut.

Drugs are also widely prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But those medications can interfere with kids’ appetites and energy levels.

Certainly some children need drug treatment to get better. If a child needs medication, we don’t hesitate to prescribe it. But whenever we can, we try to find more natural, non-drug ways to treat the problem. That might mean osteopathic manipulations to ease reflux or behavioral therapies to reduce ADHD symptoms.

At our integrative practice, we believe in vaccinating kids to protect them from infectious diseases. However, we are open to working with patients who want to vaccinate their kids on a modified schedule.

Head-to-Toe Care

I love practicing in a specialty that allows me to take time to get to know each patient from head to toe. It’s also great to draw from a toolkit that offers the best science-backed treatments from both Western medicine and Eastern techniques.

If you’re interested in exploring integrative medicine for your child (or yourself!), visit the Inova Steinmetz Integrative and Functional Medicine Center to learn more.

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