Staying Healthy Naturally
Top Cold and Flu Fighters for Children
With the onset of school, parents are stocking up on essentials, including at-home remedies to help keep kids healthy this winter. Natural Awakenings has compiled several leading experts’ best tips.
Green and Yellow Produce
Dr. James Balch, a leading natural health expert, urologist and pioneering author in healing nutrition, recommends menus rich in colored fruits and vegetables filled with carotenes. “These foods are potent antioxidants, help with immune function and are involved with the growth and repair of tissues,” he writes. For picky eaters, serve crispy carrot sticks, buttery sweet potatoes and juicy apples.
Nuts and Seeds
Keep crunchy sunflower seeds within easy reach. High in vitamin E, they help children resist the flu and upper respiratory infections. Brazil nuts are good too, because they are high in selenium that keep bacteria and viruses from replicating.
Burke Lennihan, a registered nurse, certified homeopath and author of Your Natural Medicine Cabinet, encourages parents to stock up on garlic, ginger, turmeric and cayenne. “There’s a reason why [these herbs] are so popular worldwide,” she says, “and it’s not just the flavor. They have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and other medicinal properties that modern science is just beginning to document.”
Another helpful resource is Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease, by Dr. Bharat Aggarwal, also a Ph.D. and researcher at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston.
Natural Cough Syrup
“Elderberry syrup is great for coughs,” advises Lennihan. “A study done in Israel showed that elderberry extract is as effective against the flu as Tamiflu.”
Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Dr. Deborah Gordon, of Ashland, Oregon (DrDeborahMD.com), recommends that parents use supplements relied on as basics in the home generations ago: “All children benefit from fermented cod liver oil.” Although it tastes bad, it’s one of the most effective immune boosters available in a safe and easily absorbable form.
While protecting skin from direct sun rays is an ongoing concern, current research shows that many children are deficient in the vitamin D sunshine provides. Gordon advises parents, “Ask your pediatrician to test your children to determine if they need supplements.”
In Treatment Alternatives for Children, Dr. Lawrence Rosen, who practices at the Whole Child Center, in Oradell, New Jersey, notes: “By adding probiotics to vitamin D supplementation, parents can be even more certain to keep the flu away from their children.”
Lennihan maintains that using homeopathy can stop a child’s nascent cold before it blossoms fully. “When your son shows signs of lower energy and just wants to lie on the couch, or your daughter has a mild fever and says her throat is a bit scratchy, those are the times for ferrum phosphoricum,” she says. “The 6x potency will keep the cold from ever developing.” Two pellets, three times a day, works well.
If parents miss the early signs of an approaching cold, then arsenicum album is the homeopathic medicine needed. Lennihan holds that it’s the most useful remedy when a child’s nose is running incessantly. She attests that allium cepa [common bulb onion] is a good backup if a child has an itchy nose or raw red skin under it. Both remedies are best given in 30C potency, two to three pellets three times a day for up to three days, to see if symptoms subside.
Dr. Joseph Passanante, a New York City chiropractor, offers insights based on immunology research that has demonstrated a link between the nervous system and regulation of the immune function. Thus he states, “By aligning the spine and removing nerve interference, chiropractic care enhances immunity, so that good health is maintained.” Receiving regular gentle adjustments can help children ward off illness more effectively, and they will become more limber from the treatments.
Encourage children to wash their hands regularly and drink plenty of fresh water. The Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, advises drinking water, clear-broth soups or warm lemon water with honey to loosen congestion and prevent dehydration.
Over-the-counter, water-based saline nasal drops and sprays also can help combat stuffiness and congestion. Plus, unlike nasal decongestants, they are safe and non-irritating, according to Mayo sources. They also note that a saltwater gargle can relieve a sore or scratchy throat.
Our grandmothers may have been even smarter than we thought. Recent studies at The Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha, illustrate that chicken soup relieves colds in two ways. It acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the cells that add to inflammation and by speeding the movement of mucus, reduces the time that viruses are in contact with the nose.
Dr. Greg Meyer, a Phoenix, Arizona, integrative physician, says the key for parents is to make sure children don’t overexert themselves when they are sick. “Kids need to rest their bodies in order to heal,” he advises. “An extra day of rest can yield a more certain cure and more reliable recovery.” At this point, parents might need some, too. A little tea party or some time cuddled up with a good book might help the whole family feel better.