Constant colds, ear infections, runny noses and stomach bugs don’t have to be an accepted part of going back to school.
A healthy body is the best defense against illness and disease and building a strong immune system provides the protection you need to keep the body strong and reduce the risk of infection.
A strong immune system is not about good genes. There are many ways to boost a child’s immune system safely and effectively through lifestyle habits, diet and herbs.
You don’t have to just sit back and accept the fall and winter sniffles, colds and flu. Below are some tips to keep your child healthy.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
I get it, you’re busy. You work full-time and have to juggle sports and clubs and scouts.
Food allergies and food intolerance has grown because of the amount of “convenience foods” our kids are ingesting. Approximately 70% of the immune system is in our gut and we are bombarding our children’s immune systems with sugar, additives, artificial colors and preservatives. Sugar is an immune suppressant and our food has a very high sugar content. This makes the fight against bacteria and viruses much more difficult for the body to handle.
While everything (including some junk food) in moderation is fine, it is best to focus on whole foods that are in season as the bulk of our diet. It does not need to be complicated. One of the most beneficial things you can do is to cook your meals. Whenever possible, buy local or organic and avoid pesticides. Eat a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables with a small portion of meat.
FOOD IS MEDICINE
Cold and flu prevention can be found in the grocery store. In the winter months, add loads of garlic, onions, sage, rosemary and thyme to your meals. Season meat and poultry with these herbs or add them to soup.
Make a simple tea by steeping 2 teaspoons of sage in 1 cup of boiling water, strain and serve hot with honey. Sage is great for sore throats. Do the same with thyme for cough, chest congestion or other respiratory illness. Simmer a few slices of ginger for 20 minutes with the skin on and drink if your stomach is not feeling well.
Bone broth has amazing health benefits. Click here to see our blog post with a recipe and more information on the health benefits.
Eating a healthy diet is the ultimate way to get the vitamins and minerals your body and immune system needs. But if your child’s diet is not optimal or there is a time of increased stress, supplements may be needed to boost the immune system.
Choose fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C like lemons, oranges, strawberries, broccoli and green peppers.
Nettle is a vitamin and nutrient rich herb that is nourishing to the body. It will also help alleviate seasonal allergies if taken consistently. It is earthy tasting and it may take children some time to get used to that taste. You can brew the tea and add honey or add to soups or other food for children that won’t drink the tea.
Traditional Medicinals is an excellent source of high quality herbal teas. Click here for a link to their Nettle Tea. Drink a cup daily.
A good quality multivitamin that contains vitamin C and zinc can be taken as well . Talk to your pediatrician for a recommendation.
STRESS & SLEEP
Sleep is super important to stay well and is essential when you are sick. Some children have difficulty settling down at night and have a hard time falling asleep. The following teas are gentle, relaxing, and can be a nice part of a bedtime ritual.
Chamomile tea is calming and relaxing for preschool children and older. It is simple and and most children that age will like the taste and drink it. It is also good for a nervous stomach. Click here for Traditional Medicinals Chamomile Tea.
Soul Holistic Health Calm Tea is a good choice for children 4 years and older. It includes chamomile and other herbs that are soothing and tasty. Click here for a link to this tea.
HERBS SPECIFIC FOR COLD/FLU
There are tried and true herbal remedies that help prevent illness. Prevention is key, but these remedies will shorten the duration if you do end up getting sick.
Elderberry syrup is a winter wellness MUST. It not only tastes delicious, but is good for sinus issues and fall allergies as well as colds, flu and coughs. The recommended dose for children is one teaspoon per day to stay healthy. For acute illness, the dose is one teaspoon 4 times a day at the onset of symptoms. Elderberry syrup is typically made with honey and honey should not be given to children under the age of 1.
This elderberry syrup from Soul is made from local honey. It is not recommended for children under 1 because of the honey content. Click here to purchase.
Echinacea is another virus and bacteria fighting herb. The tincture is best used at the onset of symptoms or at the very early stage when your child has been exposed to someone who is sick.
If there are no symptoms present, but your child has been exposed to someone who is sick, give 1 drop per 2 pounds of body weight 2 – 4 times per day for a day or two. So, for example, a 60 lb. child should be given 30 drops 2 – 4 times a day.
If symptoms develop, give that dose every 2 to 3 hours until the symptoms subside. Most kids will not like the taste, so add it to 2 ounces of water or juice .
If the timing is right, echinacea will stop the illness in its tracks, but if the dose is low, or an infection has already taken hold, it is less effective. Good quality echinacea can be determined by taste. It will cause a “buzzing” or tingling sensation on the tongue so don’t be alarmed if that is what your child describes.
Click here for Herb Pharm’s Echinacea Tincture made with alcohol. You can also purchase this at most Whole Foods or local natural health stores. Alcohol tinctures are generally safe for use in children. Here is information on using alcohol tinctures if you would like to learn more.
If you don’t want to use alcohol tinctures, you can also find Herb Pharm’s alcohol-free Echinacea Tincture here. This can be used by children and adults that are alcohol-free.
The bottom line? Children spend a lot of time indoors and in close contact with each other during the school year. They don’t always cover their mouth or wash their hands and cough and sneeze freely. You don’t have to accept that back to school means back to being sick. You don’t want your kids to live in a bubble. Just know there are ways to avoid illness and to lessen the impact with diet, lifestyle and plants.
Disclaimer: I am not a physician. I cannot treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose any illness. The content on our website and on our blog is for educational purposes only. We are trained herbalists and not licensed or registered healthcare practitioners. We cannot diagnose health conditions, nor prescribe medicines legally; we are not medical doctors. Consult your healthcare provider before trying any new herb or remedy mentioned in the website or any related forum. If you are pregnant or nursing, consult a qualified specialist before taking any herb or supplement.