by Jenny Smiechowski –
Once late summer hits, it seems like all of your time goes to preparing your kids for the upcoming school year. You buy school supplies, books, and back-to-school clothes. You take them to the doctor for a physical, the dentist for teeth cleaning and sign them up for all their favorite after-school activities.
But there’s one thing you may forget to prepare them for…
The germs awaiting them once they set foot back in the classroom. Because, the fact is, any time you put hundreds of kids together in close quarters, it’s bound to become a germ breeding ground. And it doesn’t help that the start of the school year overlaps with the start of cold and flu seasons, which begin in September and October.
So, what can you do to help your kids start the school year right by staying healthy and germ-free?
Well, when it comes to common back-to-school illnesses like colds, cases of flu and stomach bugs, prevention is the best medicine….
The Two-Step Sickness Prevention Plan
The first step of any smart sickness prevention plan is germ avoidance. There are a lot of simple tips you can teach your kids to keep their germ exposure down, like washing their hands several times throughout the day (especially after using the bathroom); not sharing food and beverages with other kids; keeping their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth; and spraying shared equipment or surfaces with a natural disinfectant (which you can make by mixing essential oils like tea tree, lemon or lavender with vinegar or rubbing alcohol (1))(2).
Of course, it’s impossible to avoid germs altogether. Especially, if you have really little ones, who’ll probably participate in germ-sharing behaviors regardless of what you do. That’s why immune system support is important too. Two of the best ways to keep your kid’s immune system strong are through proper sleep (12-13 hours a day) and a healthy diet (3).
When it comes to diet, make sure your kids get enough colorful fruits and veggies. They are rich in phytonutrients (like vitamin C and carotenoids) that boost the body’s white blood cells and help fight infection (4). These phytonutrients also boost the production of an antibody called interferon, which helps protect your body from viruses (4).
Omega-3-rich foods like salmon, tuna, walnuts, and flaxseed are important too because studies show omega-3s can help children fight infections (3). Just make sure to test for any nut allergies, and never give whole nuts to children under 5, because it’s a choking hazard (3).
If your kid isn’t a fan of fish, you could also turn to a fermented cod liver oil supplement. Not only are these supplements filled with omega-3s, but they contain other immune-system supporters like vitamins A, K, and D (5). And if you want to lend your kids’ immune systems a helping hand using herbs, consider trying Native Remedies’ KiddieBoost™, which contains powerful immune-supporting herbs like Echinacea, astragalus, and ashwagandha.
Probiotics are also an essential part of a healthy, immune-boosting diet for children since 70 percent of your child’s immune cells are in his or her gut (6). The best way to increase your kids’ probiotic intake is to feed them more fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir (5). There are also probiotic supplements that are designed specifically for children, so those are an option too.
What to Do When Illness Strikes…
Despite your best prevention efforts, your kids are bound to get sick sometimes, so you need to know what to do when a back-to-school illness strikes unexpectedly. Here are a few natural remedies to get your kids back on track (and back in school) when they come down with one of these common back-to-school sicknesses:
Colds are the most common illness your kids catch at the beginning of the school year. Young kids (age 2 and under) get a whopping 8 to 10 colds per year (7). And although the frequency of colds gradually goes down as kids get older, kids, in general, are more likely to get colds than adults, because they haven’t developed immunity to common cold viruses (7).
Since colds are caused by a virus and not bacteria, you’ll want to steer clear of antibiotics, which will only wipe out the healthy bacteria in your child’s gut without any benefit. But certain supplements have been shown to ease symptoms or shorten the duration of a cold, like vitamin C (8). You can safely give children over age 5 500 mg of vitamin C twice per day (9). If your kid has a sore throat or cough, you may want to try giving him or her a spoonful of honey, which studies show may be more effective than cough medicine (10). Just don’t give honey to any child under 1 year old, because there is a risk of botulism. And don’t forget about Echinacea (which you can find in Native Remedies’ KiddieBoost™). It’s been shown to make colds less severe and shorter in certain studies (11). Last but not least, when your child has a cold, he or she will also have sinus congestion and excess throat mucus. You can provide relief from these uncomfortable cold symptoms through homeopathic remedies like Kali bich, Kali mur, and Kali sulph, all of which are found in Native Remedies’ Mucus Clear. Of course, of all the remedies you can use for a cold, the two most effective are rest and lots of fluids.
Many of the remedies that help with colds help with the flu too, like vitamin C and Echinacea. In fact, studies show that Echinacea is as effective as prescription flu medication Tamiflu (12). You may also want to try honey (either by the spoonful or mixed in tea), especially if your kid has a cough or sore throat. If your child’s sore throat is severe, you may want to have him or her tested for strep throat, which needs a course of antibiotics to treat. Vitamin D helps with respiratory infections caused by colds and flus too. You can give kids 1000- 2000 IU of D3 per day (9). And, of course, just like with a cold, rest and fluids are key!
There’s nothing worse than having a kid stuck at home with the stomach flu. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to ease your child’s aching tummy. Since stomach flu is usually caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t help. But peppermint and ginger tea can ease nausea and digestive discomfort (13). Chamomile tea has also been shown to relieve nausea, diarrhea and other digestive symptoms (13). Once the worst of the stomach symptoms (like vomiting and diarrhea) pass, you can start building your kid’s strength by feeding him or her bland foods like banana, toast or rice (14). You should also help him or her rehydrate by giving them plenty of water, juice and maybe even an electrolyte beverage. But beware, if your child vomits or has diarrhea for two days or more, it’s time to give your doctor a call (13).
Hopefully, these tips will keep your kids happy and healthy this school year. But if an unexpected cold or flu strikes, at least now you know how to knock it out efficiently and naturally. And don’t forget, when your kids get sick, do their teachers and classmates a favor…keep them home from school to prevent other kids from suffering the same fate.
- Ariza, Tracy. “The Best Essential Oils for Cleaning and Disinfecting.” TheThingsWellMake.com. 21 Sept. 2015. Web 7 Aug. 2017. <https://thethingswellmake.com/the-best-essential-oils-for-cleaning-and-disinfecting/;.
- “Influenza (Flu).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 3 Aug. 2017. Web 7 Aug. 2017. <https://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/index.htm;.
- Delaney, Emer. “How to boost your child’s immune system.” BBC Good Food. 15 Oct. 2016. Web 7 Aug. 2017. <https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-boost-your-childs-immune-system;.
- Gordon, Sandra. “7 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immunity.” Parents Magazine. N.D. Web 7 Aug. 2017. <http://www.parents.com/health/cold-flu/cold/boost-childs-immunity;.
- Silvestri Banks, Jacqueline. “5 ways to boost your child’s immune system.” Fox News. 16 Sept. 2014. Web 7 Aug. 2017. <http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/09/16/5-ways-to-boost-your-childs-immune-system.html;.
- Vighi, G, et al. “Allergy and the gastrointestinal system.” Clinical & Experimental Immunology. 2008 Sep; 153(Suppl 1): 3–6. doi: 1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x. Web 7 Aug. 2017.
- “Colds in children.” Paediatrics & Child Health. 2005 Oct; 10(8): 493–495. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722603/. Web 7 Aug. 2017.
- Hemilä, Harri. “Vitamin C and Infections.” Nutrients 2017, 9(4), 339; doi:10.3390/nu9040339. Web 8 Aug. 2017.
- Cowan, Steve. 11 Flu Fighting Tips for Your Child. The Be Well Blog. 15 Jan. 2013. Web 8 Aug. 2017. <https://www.bewell.com/blog/11-flu-fighting-tips-for-your-child/;.
- Moninger, Jeannette. “All-Natural Cold & Cough Remedies.” Parents Magazine. N.D. Web 8 Aug. 2017. < http://www.parents.com/health/cold-flu/cold/natural-cold-cough-remedies/;.
- “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt.” Mayo Clinic. 24 Jan. 2017. Web 8 Aug. 2017. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403?pg=2;.
- Rauš, K, et al. “Effect of an Echinacea-Based Hot Drink Versus Oseltamivir in Influenza Treatment: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Double-Dummy, Multicenter, Noninferiority Clinical Trial.” Current Therapeutic Research, 2015(77): 66-72. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26265958. Web 8 Aug. 2017.
- Wu, Brian. “Stomach flu: Symptoms, causes, and home remedies.” Medical News Today. 6 Mar. 2017. Web 8 Aug. 2017. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/310481.php;.
- Stoudt, Alisa.“Health 101: Rotavirus & Stomach Flu.” Parents Magazine. N.D. Web 8 Aug. 2017. < http://www.parents.com/health/cold-flu/flu/rotavirus-stomach-flu;.