Gentle wraps for children

Elisabeth Menzel

“Illnesses represent important developmental steps for children,” explains Gerda Zölle, responsible for the nursing section at WALA Heilmittel GmbH. This applies both in a physical and psychological respect. Fever, for example, speeds up the metabolic processes in the body and stimulates the production of white blood cells. Afterwards the immune system works faster and more effectively. 

If children have to suffer pain or itching during an illness they often also undergo a transformation in themselves. Bed rest and attentive care are good for children, leave them space to concern themselves with themselves. “Put a favourite book or a toy by the bed,” Gerda Zölle recommends. But above all: “Just allow the child to be ill.” There are gentle remedies for annoying complaints.

Wraps and compresses address the whole human being

It is recorded that the hot mud of the Nile was used in Egypt for packs as long ago as 1 500 BC. Wraps and compresses have a long tradition. At around 500 to 400 BC Hippocrates described the effect of hot wraps. The Greek physician Galen of Pergamon studied the action of mud packs on chronic inflammatory processes. In the nineteenth century, wraps finally established a firm place for themselves in naturopathy – mainly due to Sebastian Kneipp and his hydrotherapy. These external treatments have had a firm place in anthroposophic medicine from the beginning. Because only the interaction of physical, soul and spiritual levels fully comprises the human being, particularly when he or she is ill. The skin, as a natural barrier organ, protectively surrounds the whole body and is simultaneously the largest human sense organ. Coldness and pain, but also security and warmth are experienced through the tactile corpuscles in the skin. The sensitivity of the skin means that a great variety of effects can be achieved in the organism through the external applications of water or oil. They become even more effective through the addition of herbal substances. The blood circulation is stimulated and the secretory function and receptivity of the skin is stimulated. Wraps, too, unfold their healing powers through the skin. Depending on duration and technique, they achieve quite different effects: they can remove warmth or supply it, enhance the blood flow. Depending on the indication, they are prepared with pure water or the addition of herbal preparations. “These substances give the body an impulse from the outside which it assimilates through the skin and to which it reacts directly,” explains Gerda Zölle. “Thus the organism is activated and healing speeded up.” Although it is always a local application, this form of therapy addresses the whole person because wraps also act internally on organs which are located deeper in the body. They influence both metabolic processes and the immune system and psyche.

Practical tips

The following utensils are required for wraps and compresses: cotton nappy towels as the inner cloth, fabric handkerchiefs or dishcloths made of natural materials as the outer cloth and a cloth made of pure sheep’s wool (e.g. a wool scarf) for the finish. Shirts, cloths or scarves made of natural materials are suitable for holding the wrap in place. Many pharmacies, health food shops and online shops meanwhile sell complete wrap sets.

Please take sufficient time and ensure a calm atmosphere – both before, during and after application. Check that the skin is intact where the wrap is to be applied and make sure that the patient has warm feet. When treating children you should always check on a small section of skin that the prescribed substance is well tolerated. It is also a benefit if the preparations used do not contain any alcohol. Certain anthroposophical medicines can do without alcohol and its preserving function due to a rhythmical production process in the preparation of the medicinal plants. Massages with medicinal oils are very popular with children because afterwards they feel thoroughly comfortable in their skin. Carried out by a trusted person with warm hands and a little malva oil, they stabilise the child’s warmth envelope. That helps particularly in the case of anxiety and restlessness. With sleep disorders, a bath with lavender oil calms the mind. Foot baths harmonise the sentient organisation.

When coughs and sneezes become troublesome you can give your child relief with a compress: spread a bronchial balm containing narrow-leaf plantain and thyme on a clean cloth and make a chest compress in the morning and evening. The plant extracts have a relaxing and expectorant effect.

Our mothers and grandmothers already knew about the positive effects of cool calf wraps on fever. A gentler possibility is massaging the calves with a body oil containing lemon extract. This application has a strengthening and cooling effect on the febrile child. Foot compresses with slices of lemon can also help. In their early years of life many children are plagued by tormenting earache. It is essential to discuss suitable treatment with your doctor or paediatrician. An old home remedy is the “onion pack” – a compress for the ear with raw onions. It has a pain-relieving, relaxing and liberating effect. Preparations with extracts of aconite (Aco­nitum nappelus) have proved their worth: ear drops with this ingredient can help to regulate the inflammatory processes of the ear or middle ear.