Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Placebo Effect

You've heard of it.  Maybe you have even had experience with the placebo effect.  It is truly amazing how many times a non-medicine can have an effect on a person's health.  Why does this happen?  We convince ourselves that we are getting better because we believe that we have actual medicine.  The mind and body can be amazing sometimes!

I had some experience with a placebo when I worked as a first aid administrator years ago.  You see, when you are working at a camp you have a lot of homesickness.  We frequently used the code name, "Marshmellow Fever".  So many times the sick child really just needed a break from activity to receive some extra special attention from an adult.  Sometimes the cure was writing a letter, others it was simply talking.

One of my favorite camp time placebos was the "stomach ache" medicine.  I kept a few "pills" in the cabinet for special times of need.  They had the letter "S" on them and a fruity flavor if you chewed them.  I generally recommended swallowing them quickly because I did not want my campers to figure out that the placebo of choice was really a Skittles candy.  They worked like a charm.  In fact one particularly homesick little girl was having a miserable day.  She was terribly sick and could not function.  She came into the office and sat down.  We talked a while, and when that did not help, I offered her some stomach ache medicine.  Immediately she was better and on the way back into regular activities.  Ah the miracle of Skittles.

Last night one of my children, the one that will be 3 in just under a month, was having a terrible night.  He just could not let himself relax to go to sleep.  After what felt like hours of him screaming about a scratch on his back, I requested that daddy go get some "H2O medicine" in a med cup.  Randy obliged and brought it to our screaming preschooler.  Cassius quickly drank the medicine that Randy assured him would make his back better and make him VERY sleepy.  Upon finishing his medicine, he laid back down quietly.  Within a minute he was screaming about wanting another medicine cup with water.

I guess we can fool ourselves, we can fool campers, but when it comes to 3 year olds - they know all the tricks!


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