My son has had a blocked tear duct since he was a newborn. He is now 16 weeks old and it still doesn’t seem to be clearing up. Is there anything natural that we can use? The doctor has told me not to worry and that it will clear by itself, but I feel concerned because there has been no change so far.
I would like to begin by attempting to put your mind at ease since your doctor is quite correct in that blocked tear ducts do tend to resolve of their own accord. It may take anywhere up to 12 months before the duct is fully clear, however, so continue to watch out for any improvement.
Ducts can become blocked in babies when they are not yet fully developed, which is why this issue generally resolves itself over time as development occurs. In some cases, it is simply because the ducts are so small. You will have noticed that your little boy has a constantly watering eye, as the tears are not draining down through the duct into the nasal passages. Tears are constantly produced in order to bathe the eyes, not just for when we cry.
Should the watery discharge become sticky or gunky, this indicates that there may be an infection present. This simply means that you will need to be very attentive to your hygiene when keeping the eye clean, washing your hands thoroughly both before and after treating his eye. If you are breastfeeding, then drop a little breastmilk into the affected eye as this works very quickly and effectively to clear up the infection.
Otherwise, you can make up a mild herbal infusion using either chamomile flowers (matricaria recutita), pictured, or eyebright (euphrasia officinalis). Soak a cotton ball or pad in the cooled infusion, and gently wipe out the inner eye. If the entire area becomes ‘sticky’ or encrusted then wipe from the inner corner towards the outer corner of the eye, discarding each wipe after a single use.
The other treatment you might like to try is homeopathy. Silica (a low potency of 6 or 12) is typically used to help clear a blockage. Give one dosage, three times daily, for a week. Wait a further week to see if there is any obvious improvement. If the duct seems to be clearing, then repeat the Silica treatment for a further week, alternating weekly in this fashion until the duct has cleared completely.
If there is no improvement after using homeopathic Silica for the first week, then it may be a case of the duct being underdeveloped. Many homeopaths prescribe baryta carbonica in this case to help encourage the development of the duct, although it is wise to visit a qualified homeopath to establish the best remedy and course of treatment for your son.
You can also help by gently massaging the area next to the inner eye beside the nose for a few seconds every couple of hours. In the unlikely case that the homeopathic treatment, massage, and ‘wait and see’ approach have not made any significant progress by the time your boy is a year old, then it is best to make an appointment with a specialist to see if a minor operation may be required to clear the duct.
My naturopath swears by infra-red saunas. Are they the same thing as steam saunas, and do they have the same benefits?
Infra-red saunas work by heating you rather than the air around you, whereas a conventional sauna will heat the room. Infra-red heat is thought to penetrate up to 3-4cm deep, which means that your body will achieve similar benefits to a regular sauna at much lower temperatures.
This is why infra-red has long been used to help premature babies, and is considered to be a safer option for those with heart issues, blood pressure regulation problems (high or low), varicose veins, or stroke risk. You should still avoid any type of sauna if you are pregnant or have been freshly tattooed.
Many of the benefits are the same with the two sauna types — pain relief, weight loss, detoxification. Do check with your health professional if you have any concerns about using either type of sauna.
NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor
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