Every year there’s a collective panic as parents realize summer is over, fall is upon us, and with it the dreaded cold and flu season.
Having the flu is hard enough, but if you are a parent the flu warrants full blown panic. A sick parent gets no time off. We suffer through every ache and pain while caring for our high maintenance little ones. Ughhh. But God help you if you are sick AND so are your kids. My condolences. There is nothing worse than being sick and caring for a sick child.
There are a lot of ways of warding off the annual viruses that love to float around this time of year. My recommendations are slightly different for adults versus children. But the things that work for kiddos usually work for grown-ups. And since the kids are usually the ones snuggling up with the viruses I thought it would be best to start with the kiddos.
So here are the tips and tricks I’ve used to help keep kids healthy during cold and flu season.
First things first, clean up their diet
This is the one thing no mainstream eater wants to hear. I get it. Change is hard. But if you truly want healthy kids they need to be eating a whole foods based diet, rich in plant food.
Remember what these kids eat, literally builds their bodies. And if they are eating toxic food…well, they will end up with toxic bodies with little leftover to defend themselves against pathogens. You can read more here about What I Feed My daughter To Keep Her Healthy.
Supplements to stay healthy
Remember that supplements are NOT A SUBSTITUTE for a balanced whole foods based diet. Please don’t be that person who takes a bunch of supplements after you’ve downed a fast food burger and soda **facepalm** but supplements do go a long way when paired with a healthy diet.
My little one gets probiotics on a regular basis. Probiotics from both foods and supplements help keep her stomach bacteria balanced and her immune system healthy.
I do like to rotate the supplements for variety, and she does take a break for a month or so, usually at the beginning of each season. This is the brand I’m using right now. I like that it’s organic and includes vitamin D and food based vitamin C. Don’t forget to incorporate probiotic rich raw fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, and fermented veggies.
Unfortunately many of today’s kids are dangerously deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy body and healthy immune system. We NEED sunshine.
Today the vilification of sunshine has led to a dangerous decrease in vitamin D levels. Of course you shouldn’t be outside so long your burn (this is where common sense comes in) but I see tons of people avoiding even the slightest amount of direct sunshine. So make sure you and your little ones are getting your daily dose of sunshine.
Of course straight sunshine is the preferred source but if we’ve been indoors a few too many days, or if the sun is shy a while then I do supplement with D3 drops made just for kids like this one from ChildLife. And by the way, the children’s probiotic supplement I mentioned above also includes vitamin D.
We get most of our vitamin C through food. Check out my post, 15 Surprising Sources of Vitamin C for a handy list. That said, if people around us are sick or if either of us is coming down with something then extra vitamin C is in order.
As I’ve mentioned, I prefer getting my nutrients from food sources. In this case camu-camu powder is my preferred way to go. It has a tart berry taste that mixes well with a bit of fresh juice or in a smoothie. If you do buy a vitamin C supplement make sure it’s a non-GMO source and preferably derived from whole food. Like this one from Radiant Naturals.
Fish oil or krill oil
I’ve mentioned before that I no longer eat any fish due to the increasing toxicity of the world’s oceans. That’s for another post. However fish oil is still a valuable nutrient and important for cellular integrity (source). So, for now, I cautiously advise taking Antarctic sourced krill oil, or North Atlantic Arctic sourced fish oil from a reliable source that does regular testing.
Also, remember that fish oil is a blood thinner, and too much can be problematic. There are reports of folks overdoing their fish oil. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 oils should be somewhere between 1:1 (most people are around 16:1!) with a healthy ratio being between 4:1 and 1:4 (source)There's no need to get sick this season. Try organic whole foods + toxin-savvy living for a vibrant immune system!Click To Tweet
The natural medicine cabinet
If your child is sick then you need a few things to get them through it as comfortably as possible. Here are a few of my favorite natural remedies.
This gem is quite the popular kid on the wellness block. With every health blogger adding their take of this great remedy. And for good reason, elderberry is a narrow spectrum antiviral and especially good for influenza virus and other enveloped viruses (1).
Although the cooked syrup made from berries is generally safe and commonly used for children, you still want to administer in small doses until you know it is well tolerated.
In some people elderberry can cause nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Although this effect is more often associated either with the fresh berry (which has some cyanide, though this is cooked out in the syrup so don’t freak out) or with the leaves and stems (not used in syrups).
For kiddos I recommend sticking to the cooked syrup and avoid products with added sugar.
You can also make your own syrup, check out my post, How to Use Elderberry Syrup to Prevent Cold and Flu to learn more about making fresh elderberry syrup.
The dosage I use for a little one is 1-2 tsp every 2-4 hours.
Antiviral slow cooker ginger tea
This is an amazing antiviral tea that packs a potent punch. It relieves mucus congestion, can relieve body aches, reduce a fever, calm nausea and reduce diarrhea. Get my full recipe for this yummy tea here, My Antiviral Ginger Tea to Keep You Healthy.
If little one has an upset tummy, chamomile tea is exactly what they need. It soothes an upset tummy very well and also soothes their muscles and prepares them for sleep. I’ve also heard some reports that chamomile tea helps lower fever. In fact my little one loves this tea so much when plays toy doctor with her stuffed animals she “administers” chamomile tea to all her patients. Yeah, she’s cute.
I usually brew a batch of tea in half a mug of water. Once it’s room temperature I add a teaspoon of raw honey (see below) and give her the tea to drink. You may also give the tea in a medicine dropper if they won’t drink it in the cup. Catnip and lemon balm are also good teas for kiddos.
Immune boosting chicken soup
I’m pulling out a vintage remedy with this one. Chicken soup is excellent for anyone suffering illness. Cliché I know, but grandma was right.
The broth from the slow cooked bones along with the vegetables are excellent when appetite is limited but nutritional needs are high.
I make my pot of soup with organic (and inexpensive) chicken legs, mirepoux (carrots, celery, and onion), bay leaf, a ton of cumin (about 2 Tbsp.), a full head of fresh garlic, button mushrooms (added toward the end), and some chopped kale. The great thing is you can add anything that works for you.
If my little one has a cough I always reach for a little bit of raw organic honey mixed with lemon juice. I usually give her this every 3-4 hours until her cough clears. This is great for soothing a sore throat and offers a nice boost of probiotics.
Remember that kids under 1 year old age should not consume honey in any form.
No list would be complete without garlic. If anyone is sick they need this pathogen killing superfood. Add it to soups, sauces, or do what my mom does and make a superfood salsa with garlic, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.
For kiddos you can mix it with a bit of tomato sauce or I’ve also heard of mixing it with honey.
I’ve also heard of folks rubbing oil on feet and then placing garlic cloves or raw sliced onions on the feet. I’ve never had to try this but it’s something to consider.
Homeopathic Belladonna (and my thoughts on fever)
Fevers can be scary. Although they are a healthy part of the natural healing process, there is a point when you should step in to lower a fever.
First I suggest you read more about fevers, their functions and why they (usually) aren’t as scary as most people think. Check out this excellent post by mom and MD Aviva Romm about how and when to treat a child’s fever.
If I do need to lower a low (100.4) to moderate fever (103.5) in a child (non-newborn) I prefer to avoid the toxic liver damaging Tylenol and harmful Ibuprofen in favor of something safer.
Learn more about why I avoid Tylenol in this quick post from Emily, the mom and acupuncturist at Holistic Squid.
Although there are several ways to reduce a fever in kids, I like the homeopathic remedy belladonna. Homeopathic remedies are generally safe and usually quite effective.
I’ve only dealt with a fever once with my child (so I’m no fever expert), but belladonna was excellent at reducing her moderate fever quickly and gently. Many moms also swear by this remedy.
Although I haven’t tried this one, you can also consider homeopathic ferrum phosphoricum. Read more about homeopathic options for a child’s fever here. You might also consider ginger tea (above) or chamomile tea to reduce fever.
*P.S. I had a chance to listen to this great podcast from Dr. Aviva Romm. She does an amazing job at explaining the differences in fevers, when to go to the doctor, why Tylenol and Advil should be used with caution, and excellent alternatives for treatment. Every mommy should hear this!
Pumpkin seeds (for a cold, not the flu) and brazil nuts
As long as they can keep food down and feel like eating (and are not sensitive to nuts) I like to offer one or two brazil nuts for a boost of selenium (I don’t go over two as some reports indicate too much selenium mght be harmful–however this may only apply to lab created selenium) and a handful of pumpkin seeds for a good dose of zinc.
Use these remedies and preventives to help give your kiddo an advantage against this season’s viruses.
Keep in mind there are TONS of herbs and other remedies, and frankly we only covered a few here. But I think this is a great place to start and should be very effective in combating any cold or flu headed your way.
Also, remember you can’t have a healthy child who eats toxic food. Ideal health begins with nutrition.
What about you? What are your favorite remedies? Have you used anything listed above? Share your wisdom in the comments below.
Until next time happy families!
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(1) Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Herbal Antivirals. North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2013 . Print.