Addressing CFS and Fibromyalgia in Children

Published: September 23, 2012

Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia afflicts children as well as adults. Fortunately, children also respond well to therapy. As an internist I was initially hesitant to help children, but I began doing so after lecturing in England around 15 years ago. After the talk, a mother came up to me and said that I needed to help her seven-year-old daughter. I told her I couldn't, because I wasn't a pediatrician. She very sweetly smiled and told me that she was not going to let me leave the country until I helped her daughter! She was so loving and caring that I could not tell her no, and I told her that if she found a pediatrician that would work with me, I would help her daughter. The girl is now healthy and doing well, having finished college. Since then, I have helped many children in conjunction with their pediatricians.

Although the "SHINE Protocol" is very effective in children as well as adults, there are some differences in the therapy approach. Most important would be to address the autonomic dysfunction, yeast and other infections, adrenal support, milk allergies, and thyroid resistance. This article will discuss how to help children recover from these illnesses.

Getting Kids And Young Adults Well—Information for Patients Under Age Sixteen

If you're under age sixteen, you most likely have neurally mediated hypotension (NMH)—sort of like low blood pressure—and an allergy to milk proteins. Some doctors do a type of test called the tilt table test to diagnose NMH, but I address NMH without doing the test first. It's not a bad idea to have it done, but it is expensive and uncomfortable.

To address NMH, your doctor can prescribe the medications fluoxetine (Prozac), midodrine (Proamatine), fludrocortisone (Florinef, which is modestly effective), and/or methylphenidate (Ritalin) or dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine). Of all of these, Dexedrine or Ritalin are most helpful in those under 20 years of age. In addition, the following things can be helpful:

  • Avoid sugar. Stevia is a healthy sweetener you can use instead.
  • Take a good multivitamin powder.
  • Dramatically increase your intake of salt and water. Aim for 8 to 15 grams of salt and 1 gallon of water each day.
  • If you have stomach or bowel symptoms, cut out all milk products and any foods containing casein or caseinate (milk protein) as ingredients.
  • If you have taken a lot of antibiotics and/or steroid medications (cortisone, prednisone, or others), ask your doctor to consider recommending an antifungal herbal supplement that helps maintain healthy guy flora for five months, and fluconazole (Diflucan) for 6-12 weeks to get rid of possible yeast overgrowth. (See chapter 5 in my book "From Fatigued to Fantastic!" for more information on addressing yeast and other infections.) Taking probiotics like probiotic pearls for five months also helps restore balance in your body.
  • If you run frequent fevers (temperatures over 98.8°F), you likely have a hidden infection. I would consider a trial of an antibiotic like doxycycline (if you're over eight years old) for six months. If you're not better, then refer to the rest of the program outlined in my book.

Fortunately, these simple suggestions help most kids get better!

Which therapies should be avoided or modified in children?

Once the child is ~ 100 pounds or more and over 13 years old, dosing for the SHINE Protocol is largely the same as for adults. The key exceptions:

  1. Do not use testosterone or DHEA till they stop growing (no increase in height documented at least 1 year) as testosterone signals the growing edges of the bones to stop growing (permanently), it can stunt their growth.
  2. I am quicker to use florinef .1 mg (good in kids—not very effective in adults) along with dexedrine in those under 21 years old as they have more autonomic dysfunction causing their symptoms, and these are very helpful for this. I am slower to use SSRIs unless other therapies are ineffective.
  3. If they have abdominal cramps, address yeast, of course, but also look for milk allergies (do a 10 day elimination diet to diagnose).
  4. No cipro in kids under 18 and no tetracyclines in kids till the adult teeth are in (9 years old).
  5. Heparin is a last resort. Consider antiviral therapies with thymic protein, IV Vit C, and Valcyte (if labs positive—see pages 140-141 of the new edition of From Fatigued to Fantastic!). Though Professor Montoya's placebo controlled study showed modest benefit (significant for the brain fog component), experience suggests that the small subset that test positive often do very well with it when combined with the entire "SHINE protocol" we use.
  6. Kids are more likely to need 30 mg of dexedrine (the maximum dose I usually use) where in adults, 5-12.5 mg is usually enough. Kids need more salt and water loading for adrenal and autonomic support as well.
  7. Children are more likely to need ultralow-dose cortisol (adrenal support) and high dose T3 for thyroid support.

For children under 100 pounds or under 13 years old, medication doses should optimally be adjusted by a pediatrician.

[Portions of this article were used with permission from the book From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Penguin/Avery October 2007)]

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. His newest book (June 10, 2024) is You Can Heal From Long COVID. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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