With the school year and fall season in gear, your kids are exposed to more germs and may come home with a runny nose and sore throat. What can you do as a parent during this time to help prevent your kids from getting sick or, when they are ill, to alleviate their symptoms and help them get well as quickly as possible?
The first line of defense is always prevention. Try these tips to keep your kids healthy when others around them are sick:
- Make sure your kids are getting plenty of sleep. This is when their body heals and regenerates the most, so getting adequate rest is vital to staying healthy.
- Try and monitor your kids’ stress levels. Stress depresses your immune system, so with increased and sustained levels of stress there is a greater chance of becoming ill.
- Have kids drink plenty of water. Hydrating keeps toxins from building up in the system and helps to flush toxins out of the body.
- Make sure kids are playing or exercising regularly. Moving the body increases circulation, helping to move blood and lymph along. This allows white blood cells to circulate and fight germs better. Increasing blood flow also flushes toxins away from muscles and organs, and sweating from exercise or play also removes toxins through the skin.
- Decrease sugar in the diet. Limit processed foods, pastries, candies and other sweets, as sugar also impairs the immune system and the body’s overall ability to fight colds and flus.
The onset of a cold or flu
Your child comes home feeling a little fatigued and is starting to get congested. What are some ways to keep their illness at bay and speeding up the healing process?
- Have your child continue to drink more water and get plenty of rest. These are still the best ways to help support our body’s natural defenses and give the body a greater opportunity to fight off any infections.
- Take out sugar completely and decrease mucus-producing foods, such as dairy, citrus, and bananas. This will lessen the load on the immune system and prevent any congestion from becoming worse.
- Echinacea and elderberry are herbs that can help boost the immune system and combat upper respiratory infections. The glycerite forms of these herbs are also tasty for children.
- Other herbs that are warming and good for colds and congestion include cinnamon, ginger, cloves and yarrow. They can increase circulation and help stimulate body heat.
- The wet sock treatment is very helpful for increasing circulation and decreasing congestion in the head, throat and chest. It also helps with sleep and stimulates the immune system. (The procedure for wet sock treatment is found below.)
Your child now has a full-blown cold or flu. He is tired, congested, has a cough and is running a fever. What are some extra treatments you can add to relieve symptoms?
- The same treatments as above can be continued to support the immune system.
- Chamomile tea is wonderful for children because it relaxes them so they can sleep while also helping to clear coughs and congestion and decrease fever.
- To increase drainage and help relieve congestion, a number of things can help:
- Taking horehound and mullein internally is good for clearing bronchial congestion by stimulating coughs. Mullein is also an antimicrobial to help fight infections.
- Thyme and eucalyptus essential oils can be added to 1 ounce of olive oil to rub behind the ears, down the neck and on the chest before your child goes to bed or after he awakens. The essential oils can also be added to steam showers or a big basin of hot water for your child to inhale to relieve the congestion.
- A mustard pack is beneficial for a congested chest. (The procedure for a mustard pack is found below.)
- For a dry, spasmodic cough, hyssop and black cherry are great antitussives for children. Soothing throat herbs for dry coughs also include mullein and marshmallow root.
Extended immune support
For kids that may have multiple respiratory infections during fall or winter, other supplements to support the immune system can be added.
- Vitamin C and zinc stimulate the immune system and help to both prevent and reduce the duration of colds.
- Probiotics not only help with gut health; they also boost our immunity.
- Fish oil helps modulate the immune system and decreases inflammation.
The most important factors for preventing illnesses still center around the basics of rest, hydration and getting the right nutrients. If your children get these basics, they will be less likely to become sick, but if they do get sick, these natural treatments can help to ease their symptoms as well as expedite their healing process.
Wet Sock Treatment
- 1 pair of thin cotton socks soaked in ice water
- 1 pair of dry, thick wool socks
Right before bed, soak feet in hot water for 5-10 minutes or take a hot shower/bath. Wring out the cotton socks and put on. Put dry wool socks over the cotton socks, and go to bed with socks on.
- 2 pieces of thin cloth (muslin is best, or an old cut-up T-shirt)
- 1 tbsp dry mustard powder
- Flour (adult: 4 tbsp, child: 8 tbsp, infant: 12 tbsp)
- Hot water
Mix flour and mustard. Add enough hot water to make a medium thin paste. Put one piece of muslin over the chest, spread mustard paste thinly over the entire cloth, then cover with the remaining cloth to make a mustard “sandwich.” Put a piece of cling wrap over the top and cover with a heating pad or hot water bottle for about 10-20 minutes. Skin should not be red; watch for skin irritation. Clean the area well after treatment.
Dr. Corrine Wang is a Naturopathic doctor practicing at Pacific Naturopathic in Mountain View. She provides alternative, natural solutions to a variety of health conditions. She believes in treating the whole person and supports each individual’s healing process with the most effective, least invasive methods possible. To contact Dr. Wang or for more information about her practice, please visit www.drcorrinewang.com.
Image provided by Melissa Miller & Vinnie Fernandez, PAMP’s Lead Photographers and co-owners of C’est Jolie Photography