Living in Harmony with Colds and Flu
Taking care of sick children can be a rather challenging aspect of being a parent. Waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of your child’s cough, feeling your child’s feverish body, and cleaning up vomit is something you may be familiar with. We all knew there would be times like this in our parenting experience. It’s inevitable that kids get sick. It’s a necessary part of growing up, a normal part of childhood.
The general belief is that kids “catch” colds and flu from viruses that are circulating in the air or passed from others. Many people talk about a cold or flu “going around” as if it were making the rounds infecting every child in its path. The reality is that out of all the children exposed to the virus, only a portion of these children will get sick to some degree and others will not succumb to the disease at all. This is because viruses and bacteria are not the sole cause of disease. There is much more going on behind the scenes in your child’s body. The “cause” of the illness is not just the virus. There are many factors involved. The internal environment of the body determines whether a child will be susceptible to colds, flu or any other illness.
Germs, such as a virus or bacteria, will only lead to illness when the body is out of balance and immunity is weakened. In order to survive and become active enough to cause symptoms, these germs first need to have an environment that nourishes them. They survive and proliferate from feeding off the wastes and toxins that accumulate in the body. The immune system responds, triggering an inflammatory response that may include rash, fever, congestion, runny nose, and coughing. These are signs that the body has begun its process of healing—dispelling the wastes, virus, and accumulated toxins from the body.
In order for the body to generate a sufficient and complete healing response, the immune system needs to be strong and functioning at its best. Factors that contribute to a weakened immune system include poor nutrition, stress, an unhealthy mental or emotional state, and excessive toxins.
There is plenty you can do to reduce the toxic load and strengthen your child’s immune system and overall health and vitality. The best approach is to provide a healthy environment right from the start. A baby needs to be nourished during the entire pregnancy with organic, whole foods and lots of love, birthed in a peaceful, welcoming environment, then exclusively breastfed and nurtured immediately upon entering the world.
Long-term breastfeeding is, by far, the most important thing you can do. Breastmilk provides the nutritional and immune factors crucial to building and maintaining healthy immunity. Breastfeeding into the toddler, or even the preschool years, provides the physiological and emotional factors necessary to develop and boost the immune system.
Also vitally important is good nutrition—plenty of fresh, whole foods. Processed foods place a burden on the immune system and create more of a toxic environment within the body.
A nontoxic environment is essential. In our current world, it is impossible to avoid all toxins. But we can reduce exposure to a great extent if we know how our children are being exposed through their food, homes, schools and playgrounds. It’s also important to avoid vaccines and unnecessary antibiotics since these substances can weaken overall immunity and add to the toxic load on the body.
Moreover, a child needs a healthy mental attitude, low stress, emotional security, and plenty of rest and exercise. In addition to all of the above health builders, you can boost your child’s immune system with herbs, homeopathy, or chiropractic care. Certain herbs, including echinacea, astragalus, elderberry, and garlic have been found to have remarkable immune-building properties. These herbs support the body’s vitality and help prevent development of disease. Homeopathy prescribed by a classical homeopath can help tremendously to release any imbalance from the body and shift it into health and vitality. Chiropractic treatments can also help to strengthen the immune system and overall health.
It’s our job as parents to keep our children’s bodies healthy and in balance. We need to provide what they need to function properly and reduce the toxic exposures from food and the environment.
When your children do get sick, you can help facilitate and support the healing process by gently supporting the immune system and assisting the cleansing process. Keep in mind that the symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose, etc. are exactly what need to happen to dispel and heal the disease. You don’t want to suppress this healing by giving them fever reducers or cough syrup. Antibiotics can also suppress the healing process and weaken the immune system. Instead of trying to control and suppress the symptoms our children are experiencing, we can try to stimulate their immune systems to enable their bodies to heal themselves.
Childhood inflammatory diseases are an essential part of the development of the immune system. Every time the immune system works to dispel a cold virus or other inflammatory illness, your child’s immunity is strengthened. The more the immune system does this clearing process, the stronger it will be. Studies have shown that the more acute inflammatory diseases a child has, the less the likelihood of getting chronic inflammatory diseases, such as allergies and asthma, later in life. Another great benefit is that after successfully discharging and healing certain diseases like chicken pox or whooping cough, your child will most likely receive lifetime protection from these illnesses. Childhood illnesses can certainly be demanding and frightening at times. But you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that it’s a normal part of the growing process and your child’s immune system and overall health is developing naturally and becoming stronger in the process.
The immune system is very complex, and making it strong and powerful takes a multi-faceted approach. The good news is that there is much a parent can do, inexpensively at home, to improve a child’s resistance to disease.
Jane Sheppard is the author of Super Healthy Kids: Strengthening Your Child’s Resistance to Disease and founder of Healthy Child a comprehensive resource for holistic, natural parenting, alternative medicine, and child health. Visit healthychild.com.