This morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer’s Health Section presents a “Medical Mystery” case history of a child who experiences annual cyclic fevers. Every year, in the autumn, the boy spikes a fever, along with swollen glands and body pain. The pediatrician finally diagnoses the boy with Periodic Fever with Associated Aphthous Stomatitis, Pharyngitis, and Adenitis (PFAPA). He is treated with a single dose of an oral steroid to reduce the inflammation and recovers.
How I wish the Inquirer had an “Ask the Acupuncturist” column. One of the strengths of Chinese Medicine is its many sophisticated theories of what we refer to as latent pathogens. Many of us have some experience with conditions that affect us again and again:
women who catch colds with menstruation,
These are all examples of how a disease can go underground and then resurface based on seasonal changes, stress, or hormonal triggers.
Ancient Chinese medical literature is filled with case histories, herbal formulas, acupuncture point combinations, and topical preparations to treat such syndromes. And, while we value the lifesaving role of steroids, we can frequently offer safe, supportive solutions.
In clinical practice, I would anticipate that next year, the boy would again experience the same cyclic fever.
A practitioner of Chinese Medicine would first make a differential diagnosis based on the presenting symptoms, factoring in the pattern in which they occur: seasonal, monthly, annually. Then, an effective treatment strategy would not only resolve the immediate exacerbation but would then address the underlying imbalance. We call this strategy, “treating the root and the branch simultaneously.”
In my practice, Six Fishes Chinese Medicine, we routinely treat acute infections, from the first spike of fever to the recovery stage. We modify the treatment to exactly match the patient’s presentation. For example, if you and I both a headache, but yours was in the neck, and mine was in the sinuses, we would each receive different acupuncture and herbal treatment. Even if we both have “a headache.” We really love how useful and practical this approach is.
The history of Chinese Medicine is long, and the population of China is massive. By necessity, Chinese medicine has developed multiple, clearly staged treatments for infectious diseases. Most herbal formulas fight infections, viruses, reduce fevers and boost immunity. Because of this, the majority of our patients fully recover can avoid antibiotics and steroids.
Cara Frank, L.OM. was raised by in a health food store in Brooklyn NY. When she was 8, she cartwheeled 5 miles from Greenwich Village through Soho and Chinatown and across the Brooklyn Bridge.
For over 30 years, she has had the same crazy passion for Chinese medicine.
At 17, she had her first acupuncture treatment. At 20 she enrolled in acupuncture school. 1n 1998 she went to China to study where she fell deeply in love with herbs and has never recovered.
Cara is the founder of Six Fishes Healing Arts in Philadelphia. She is the president of China Herb Company, and she is an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Chinese Herbology at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies. You can read her bio or schedule an appointment.