My first hapless brush with a paedatrician(apart from the vaccinations) was just 5 days after my firstone was born.There I was already weak,tired and drained after my labour room ordeals;holding a five day old infant in a crowded waiting room and keeping my fingers crossed that she didn't catch anything else.When my turn came and the doc examined the rashes she had all over her back and wrote out an antibiotic syrup.When I expressed my apprehensions over giving antibiotics to an infant ,he said there was no alternative,and said it would be better if I consulted a skin specialist.He in turn wrote out a cortisone ointment in addition to the antibiotic! Luckily, Ananya turned out to be a sturdy little one and never had more trouble after that apart from a short-lived,occasional cough and cold.However two and half years later when my son was born,he got a genetic double whammy of asthma and eczema ;which runs in both me and my husband's family.As a one month old he already had a personal pharmacy of antibiotic syrups, fever suppressants,cough syrups of lurid hues,a nebulizing machine and ampoules of bronchodilators,skin ointments and of course medicine dispensers of ingenious types (all of which consistently annoyed him and led to affronted cries and often, regurgitation).The trauma to the child was endless;humidity,cold,pollen,AC-anything would trigger an episode;the chest congestion and wheezing were almost constant despite all the medication.If at all the respiratory front eased up he would develop vicious itchy patches of hard skin behind elbows,knees and neck and lacerate himself by constant scratching. This evoked a sense of helpless deja-vu in me as my growing up years with my brother who had childhood asthma, were witness to a spiraling cycle of bronchodilators,corticosteroid injections and inhalers.An oxygen cylinder was also kept on standby in our house and we were experts in administering it as well as giving intravenous injections as we lived miles away from the city. I knew in my bones from all this , that allopathy had no cure for asthma.The drugs just managed the symptoms for some time till a smarter allergen again managed to overwhelm the body .The doses got progressively and aggressively higher but never really caught up with the disease.Today my brother still manages his asthma by careful diet,exercise and an inhaler in his pocket.At 30 he started balding due to all the steroid intake and his bones are not as strong as they should be. I did not want to subject my son to this.My brother's forays into Ayurveda and Yoga had not provided relief immediately but had eased condition over a long period of time.Besides ayurvedic concoctions and Jal-neti/Pranayam could not be administered to a six month old. This desperation led me to the clinic of a noted homeopath.Here the parents and the infant were subjected to a forty minute interview about corky details like the temperature of right foot at night and left palm in the morning and the phase of the moon during the attack;after which we were rewarded with mysterious slips marked 1,2,3 containing white powder which was to be put in child's mouth morning,noon and night for two days.When I asked for the name of the white powders I received a blank stare and was tersely told that "us se aapko kya lena?" Two days later I had to summon all my energy to face another lenghty interview and to respectfully receive the mysterious powders.The powders did reduce the aggravation but I just could not relate to the associated rituals and secretiveness. So I bought a homeopathic materia medica which was quite incomprehensible and complicated.I trawled the net for reading materials and bibliography.Dr Alan Schmukler at hpathy.com is a mine of information in an engaging style,but I did not find his books in Indian market. I fortituously came accross Dr Satyavrat Siddhantalankar's "Diseases and their Homeopathic Treatments" Published by Vijaykrishna Lakhanpal New Delhi ,which is a disease wise compilation of Materia Medica. Instead of describing the many conditions in which a tincture say Nux vomica can be used (which is what the Materia does); this handy compilation lists the various medicines to be used for an ailment depending upon the symptoms and severity of the patient.Thus I can find out what medicines to use for a hacking cough (drosera)or when the child has wheezing (antim tart)or when there is thick nasal discharge(kali carb) or just a runny nose (allium sepa).All the confusing permutations of Materia are sorted out ailment wise and using this enables you to read and note the significant symptoms yourself. What a liberating and empowering experience this was! .I could read the first sniffle or just the general restlessness preceding an episode of serious respiratory infection.I could immediately give medicines to loosen the cough,to reduce the fever or to stop the sneezes.An episode of sudden severity ;could be made mild by inducing vomiting so that the respiratory tract was clear and my baby could sleep in peace.I found that the complex of symptoms for severe episodes always included lack of appetite or constipation induced by overeating or consumption of junk/sweets etc.Most of all I did not have to join queues at the paedatrician's clinic at odd hours with a bawling baby . Knowing basic homeopathy is perfectly within the ken of a layperson.The drugs are cheap,effective and do not have any side-effects;you can use them with other treatments without any interference .When rightly chosen,homeopathy,in Dr Schmukler's words,"allows the body to heal itself";and when not,nothing will happen.I will give you something to chew upon with this introduction to basic homeo drugs and their usage and another handy table to locate appropriate remedies.And yes,my son about to turn five has been totally asthma free for one year now and his seasonal bouts of cough and cold are mild and managed at home without any fuss!