I thought I had done everything right, and maybe I had? I breastfed for 18 months, exclusively for the first 6 months, I feed my child very healthy foods (broccoli, fish, sweet potato, chicken soup, etc) and very few unhealthy foods (he is 19 months and has never had cake, cookies, ice cream, or any other sweet) and I even give him basic supplements (cod liver oil, vitamin D and probiotics). I even avoided Purell and other hand sanitizers because they supposedly either don’t kill all the germs or create “super bugs” (I am still unclear). I make sure he is well rested, well hydrated and that he gets plenty of fresh air and exercise in addition to multiple hefty doses of “mommy love” each day. So why is my child sick again?
Since we started my son in daycare in September (after a long summer break) if feels like he has been sick every other week! While my number one concern is for his health, my pride has taken a hit. How is it that MY son, the son of a holistic nutritionist is seemingly always sick? What did I do wrong? Is there something I should be doing as a parent that I am not? These questions led me to do what every parent does when they have questions about their child’s health and welfare. I consulted Google. I have a few go-to websites for children’s health that lean more on the holistic/alternative side. We (these websites and I) have been on a brief period of separation since I’ve been lulled into a phase of my child’s development that “I can handle”. Well, that’s over I guess. Here are some helpful hints I learned (or relearned!):
- Wash your hands often and properly. How is it that I cannot seem to do this? Tell me, how many times have you picked up your child from daycare and forgotten to wash their hands? It seems logical to do this since the children are spreading germs like wildfire at daycare, but I maybe remember to do this 1 out of every 10 times 😦 And don’t even get me started about how many times I forget to wash his hands before he eats (WITH HIS HANDS!) Sounds like I need a heavy dose of sticky notes in the car, above the highchair, on the front door, etc. And, don’t forget…it takes 30 seconds of proper washing to be effective. Another round of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star anyone?
- Skip the flu vaccine and get your child’s (and the rest of the family’s) vitamin D levels checked! “An independent analysis of worldwide flu vaccine studies published in the British Medical Journal concluded there is little scientific proof that flu vaccines are safe and effective. The flu vaccine has little or no effect on preventing flu in children. However, a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial of school children shows vitamin D does prevents the flu.” Learn more about this research. Ask your pediatrician to check your child’s vitamin D levels. According to the Vitamin D Council, babies and children should be taking at least 1,000IU per day. I actually had my son’s vitamin D levels checked in September and it was great (his level was 52 ng/mL and optimal is 50-80ng/mL) but September is at the end of the summer in the Northern hemisphere so his levels should be great after playing outside all summer. The true test begins now that we can’t make vitamin D from the sun all winter. And was I forgetting to give him his “D-drops” everyday? You Betcha. More sticky notes to write…
- Probiotics. Optimizing the good bacteria in your gut has been linked to more responsive and effective immune system, among other benefits. You can find good quality probiotics in most health stores including Whole Foods. Look for a supplement containing multiple strains of these “good bacteria” in the billions (CFUs). I am currently giving my son “Baby’s Jarro-Dophilus” by Jarrow, which is for ages 0-4, although by “currently” I mean that I only remember to give it to him once every two weeks or so which is probably not very effective. More sticky notes to hang up!
Cold and Flu Fighting Basics
- Tissues (duh!) but also vitamin C, zinc and echinacea. I am notorious for not stocking these in the house out of sheer denial that we will need them. Note to self: This doesn’t work. Bad idea. Dr. Weil‘s colleague, Dr. Sandy Newmark, recommends taking extra vitamin C: 125 mg three times a day for children who weigh 20-29 pounds; 250 mg three times a day for those who weigh 30- 59 pounds and 500 mg three times a day for those who weigh more than 60 pounds. Effervescent, powdered forms of vitamin C make up into pleasant-tasting drinks. Give the supplements at the first sign of a cold. Avoid any products that contain artificial colors or sweeteners. Zinc: Dr. Sears recommends children up to age 6 years can take 10 to 20 mg per day. Older kids and adults can take 20 to 40 mg per day. Careful with zinc, it can cause stomach upset, so take with food! For Echicacea FAQs, read here.
- Here are some safe at-home ways to help ease your child’s cold, congestion and cough symptoms from Dr. Sears. I personally enjoyed turning my bathroom into a sauna with the hot shower blasting away while my son cuddled in my arms (seated outside the shower!) until my utilities bill went sky high and the (old) shower sealant started leaking…The steam did help though!
- As for cough medicine, there isn’t much alternative or not that you can give a child under age 2, but I did find two so far. Planetary Herbals makes a cough syrup called “Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark Syrup” and Gaia Herbs makes “Cough Syrup for Dry Coughs” or “Cough Syrup for Wet Coughs” that can be given to children over age 1.
- My 19 month old also likes to sip “Throat Comfort” tea by Yogi which helps keep your little one hydrated and soothes the throat.
Foods for Fighting (Colds and Flus)
- Homemade Chicken Soup. Hydrating and packed with nutrition, this soup also warms the tummy and soothes the throat. It’s also easy to digest so the goods get to where they need to go. Often the digestive system is slower while the immune system uses up more of the body’s energy to fight colds and flus. This chicken recipe has a Thai twist to a traditional recipe. So yummy!!!
- Garlic. A natural antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal super food which can be added to soups, sautéed with veggies or hidden in smoothies. Garlic is also called a “mucolytic” (similar to over-the-counter expectorant cough syrups) because it liquefies thick mucus that accumulates in the sinuses and breathing passages.
- Honey (for children over age 1). Raw honey, like garlic and so many other natural foods, is also a natural antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal super food. A dose of raw buckwheat honey apparently reduces coughing symptoms in children 2+ better than certain OTC medicines! Read more here. Enjoy honey on toast, drizzled on apple or with plain yogurt but don’t over do it, it’s still a form of sugar!
Well, I guess I figured out what I have to do…remind myself of all the things I already knew but haven’t been consistent with. We will see if it pays off. I’m signing off (so I can write 10,000 sticky note reminders!)