Easy Tips to Keep Kids Healthy This Winter
According to the National Institutes of Health, children can get six to 10 colds a year, but with the Food and Drug Administration’s recent warnings about the safety of over-the-counter cold medicines for children, many parents are looking for new ways to find relief. Here is a rundown of some of safest and most effective alternatives.
Colds, like most illnesses, tend to affect children whose immune systems are weak; the best defense is to take steps to support the body’s natural defenses. Having children eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise and get ample rest helps keep their immune systems strong. A recommended diet includes whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. Good basics work together to keep kids healthy and active.
Recommended Foods ~ If a child comes down with a cold, encourage them to eat lightly. This allows their body to concentrate on healing, rather than on digesting a three-course meal. Choose foods wisely; some of the best natural medicines are found at home in the kitchen cabinet:
- Steamed vegetables and soups fortify the body with minerals.
- Miso and chicken soup, herbal teas and water flush away toxins and keep the respiratory tract moist.
- Ginger, onions and garlic warm the body and boost the immune system.
- Hot water with lemon and honey soothes the throat and chest and thins mucous.
- Mint tea and peppermint candies help with tickling coughs.
Foods to Avoid ~ Sugar depresses the immune system and keeps white blood cells from being able to fight infection, so it is to be avoided. Although many people drink orange juice for its vitamin C content, 100 percent fruit juices are also high in sugar. Switching to water or teas or diluting juices is a good idea.
Milk encourages the buildup of mucous, so it’s best to avoid dairy during the healing process. Pass on the milk or switch kids to soy or rice-based milks for the duration of a cold.
Medical doctor James Balch, co-author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, and naturopathic doctor Mark Stengler are leading natural health experts. They recommend the following herbs to counter a cold:
Echinacea ~ This popular herb enhances immune function. The dose for a 150-pound adult is 500 milligrams, or 2 to 4 milliliters of tincture, four times a day. For children, give a proportional amount, based on the child’s weight.
Lomatium ~ Given in the same dose as echinacea, lomatium also has antiviral properties.
Elderberry ~ Used for centuries, elderberry syrups are still popular in Europe for fighting the common cold and boosting the immune function. (Elderberry is also one of the best herbal remedies for the flu.)
Evaluating a child’s symptoms at the onset of a cold offers clues for remedies that can speed up the healing process and lessen the severity of symptoms. Give the child two or three pellets of the appropriate remedy (as noted below) that matches his or her symptoms in a 30C potency, four times a day. Stop when improvement becomes noticeable and begin again only if symptoms return. If there is no improvement within 24 hours, select a different remedy and/or consult with a professional homeopath.
Aconitum ~ Aconitum is useful during the first 24 hours of a cold. It is indicated when there is a sudden onset of fever and restlessness after exposure to cold winds or cold weather.
Pulsatilla ~ Pulsatilla is called for when nasal congestion is thick and when symptoms become worse at night, when lying down or in rooms that are warm. It is the remedy to use if children become weepy when ill and want to be held.
Allium cepa ~ Allium is a helpful remedy when a child’s nose runs like a dripping faucet. He or she may also be sneezing and experiencing watery eyes.
Gelsemium ~ If drowsiness is the most noticeable problem, then Gelsemium may be what is needed. Symptoms include overwhelming fatigue and exhausting bouts of sneezing.
Natrum muriaticum ~ This remedy is most helpful when colds are accompanied by thick, clear nasal, discharge, chapped lips and cracks in the corners of the mouth.
Water cures are used throughout much of the world, especially in European spas. These soothing therapies do wonders for kids with coughs and colds, often providing relief within minutes.
Hot baths, showers and breathing in steam imbued with lavender oil can soothe coughs and help children fall asleep. Adding eucalyptus or peppermint can relieve congestion. Finally, remember the age-old tradition moms have used for centuries; for sore throats, gargle with salt water.
Natural remedies can be a source of great comfort when used wisely. They have a long tradition of being well tolerated by children and should help keep kids up and about this winter. Even if a child gets a sniffle or two, chances are they can soon be back in the swing of life.
Note: Consult with a physician if a child’s symptoms don’t improve within a few days of treatment and always before treating an infant.
Lauri Grossman is a doctor of chiropractic and a certified classical homeopath registered by the North American Society of Homeopaths. More at HomeopathyCafe.com.