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The placebo effect @ tummy butterflies

(14 Posts)
charliemorgan8 Thu 31-Dec-15 17:35:43

What I’m about to propose may seem unethical to some, or a great solution to a distressing problem for your kids. So here goes.
Hello people of Mumsnet! It’s a known fact to many parents that children can find their early days of school (this may be continuous in later school years) to be nerve racking & scary, which usually leads to ‘butterflies’ in their tummies.
School made me nervous and at the age of 17 with two younger siblings (brother of 9, sister of 16) I’ve seen that the outcome of this can be truly tragic. My sister suffered with psychosomatic nausea (your mind telling you to feel sick/nauseas) for many years, and despite all her breathing exercises, incantations and diet changes, nothing seemed to help. This sicky feeling was most likely due to nerves & anxiety and there was of course, nothing I could do, as we were only a year apart in school years.
There was something, however, I could do about my brother, Fred. During his early school years, Freddie seemed to suffer with exactly the same problem. This was the time that I began A level psychology; and soon to discover the placebo effect. After plenty of car journeys on the way to school with Fred complaining about his tummy and saying he felt sick, Mum and I came to realise he was no longer trying to pull a sickie, he genuinely felt nauseous.
So, I thought I’d take action. I told Fred that we’d been learning about some cutting edge research to do with tummy butterflies and head massages in psychology (I completely made this up – there is no research into this topic as far as I am concerned to date – 31/12/15). I gave him some mumbo jumbo about the brain and told him there was a place called the mesolimbic system in his brain that led to his tummy aches (once again, I made this up. Although the mesolimbic system is present in our neuroanatomy it has nothing to do with nausea, or sickness alike – unless you count excess dopamine but that’s topic for another website!)
So, what did I do? I gave Fred 10 second head massages every day before school. I must’ve looked mad; massaging my brother’s temples before he got changed for school. I told him the following. “Fred I’ve now deactivated the tummy bug receptors in your mesolimbic system, I’ve shut them off til tomorrow. You won’t feel poorly at all throughout the day, as long as your eat your fruit at lunch time!” Side note; this in itself was a win win situation; he never ate his apple Mum always gave him. The more scientifically complex this statement sounds, the better. Reinforcement of the idea can come with physical acts; e.g. star jumps or something – the more specific the better. Kids are naïve, and will usually trust and go by what grownups tell them.
The whole massage idea might not be universal; it may only work for a certain type of kid. However I’d advise you try it!
This brings me onto a little gem I think I may have. If I was to develop a placebo for ‘before school’ tummy butterflies would anybody be interested? Sure you could hand a chewable sugar pill to your kid with a smile and tell them it will make them better, but you’d be better off showing them a branded packet with a doctor on the front etc., as physical attributes contribute far more to the placebo effect. Bearing in mind this wouldn’t have to be a chewy pill or anything like that, even maybe a water based medicine or even a coloured plaster.
I’d like to address the ethics now. Some of you may be sat here in anger shaking your head thinking what kind of person deceives little children?! This is just an idea I’ve had and would maybe like to develop. It is perhaps unethical, as it revolves around deception and stuff like that. I’m only 17; I’ve got next to no experience with having kids or looking after them, in fact I don’t even know if this is legal! But if it solves the painful problem of preschool tummy aches I reckon it would be worth it.
The pros simply outweigh the cons!
I’d love your feedback! Constructive or destructive, please let me know! Just remember I’m trying to solve a problem; I’m not evil or anything like that!
Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this idea sounds reasonable!
-Charlie :-)

charliemorgan8 Thu 31-Dec-15 17:37:47

nauseous* excuse my spelling!

TheWildRumpyPumpus Thu 31-Dec-15 17:42:56

If you are 17 I'll do 50 star jumps and swallow 200 sugar pills before spelling Mesolimbic system backwards standing on my head.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Thu 31-Dec-15 17:55:07

I think there's a possibility that the 'legal' thing might trip you up.

Either the ASA or the MHRA might have an issue with what you are proposing.

Floggingmolly Thu 31-Dec-15 17:55:20

Show them a branded packet with a doctor on the front... Why not show them a pack of Vallium with tic tacs inside? hmm
All supposing anybody actually wants to offer medication to their 4 year old's feeling a little nervous at starting school??

ByThePrickingOfMyThumbs Thu 31-Dec-15 17:59:08

It's clearly not a good idea to give a child the message that if they feel anxious/upset all they have to do is take a pill and it will all go away.

Working with the school to find the root cause of the anxiety at the same time as reassuring them might be a better approach, no?

IguanaTail Thu 31-Dec-15 18:00:05

Why not say that one head massage covers him for the whole year then, if it's so effective?

PolkadotsAndMoonbeams Thu 31-Dec-15 18:04:35

I'm not sure convincing them that they should take medication is a good idea, but the idea is similar to "monster-banishing spray" which I've seen often enough on here.

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Thu 31-Dec-15 18:05:49

Sorry, but you're 17, your brother is 9, you started your A levels when he was in early years at school? It doesn't really add up.

PolkadotsAndMoonbeams Thu 31-Dec-15 18:07:46

I doubt there's any market for it commercially though.

rosebiggs Thu 31-Dec-15 18:10:16

Everyone loves a psychology student.

IguanaTail Thu 31-Dec-15 18:23:00

It's not hard to outwit a 9 year old though really is it? Why bother with "pills" (apart from making money) when you can just do a massage or whatever?

PrimeDirective Thu 31-Dec-15 18:52:55

Sorry but you really haven't stumbled on a new idea (and there really is no money in it)
Parents have been doing this kind of thing for centuries (without the need for psychobabble to back it up - 4yr olds do not need medical references!). Magic cream and plasters cured all manner of bumps and bruises. Monster spray helps children sleep. Even special 'medicine' for all kinds of ills. It's not something that parents use every day, it's an occasional thing to suit the need.
The placebo effect has its place, but it has its limits. If a child is very anxious, this is a really bad idea, you need to work on the cause of the anxiety. It can also be far more effective to reassure a child that it is normal to feel nervous when starting school and lots of children will be feeling the same rather than teaching them that a pill will cure them.

upthewolves Sun 03-Jan-16 00:26:33

When I was 5 (26 years ago!) my primary school teacher had magic potion that she would give to kids if they hurt themselves and were crying e.g. if someone fell over in the playground and came inside with a grazed knee. It would only work if everyone in the class closed their eyes. I remember her doing it to me once, I'm pretty sure it was just a wet wipe! Anyway, it always stopped kids crying (placebo? distraction?) and I always believed it to the point that I would hold my eyes closed in case they opened accidentally and the magic potion didn't work for someone!

Point is, this isn't a new idea as PP have said, you don't need 'evidence' for 5 year olds and parents/ educators are doing this kind of stuff already - it doesn't feel like deception at all... but when you start handing out fake drugs I think it borders on it. And who wants to encourage their kids to take drugs for a nervous tummy. There is nothing wrong with feeling nervous, we need to be listening to our kids and finding out why.

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