Because I tend to be the “green” contributor here at Dallas Moms Blog, I’ve had a lot of questions about how our family prevents cold and flu, and deals with the sniffles as they come around to keep them from escalating into something more serious. First of all, let me say that what I share with you today is NOT medical advice. I am not a doctor. I am just sharing what has seemed to work for us and some of my friends’ families. Our approach is to allow the body to build up its own natural immunity rather than medicating, whenever possible. That way, as new strains of various bugs come around, the body is better equipped to fend them off on its own. There are definitely always times that warrant a trip to the doctor!
Hand washing. I wash my childrens’ hands before they eat anything, even a snack, if I can. This includes babies too young to stand up in front of a sink. I just hold my baby’s hands under the water and soap up for them. Hand washing with regular (not antibacterial) soap has been found to be just as effective as its heavy duty chemical-laden antibacterial counterparts.
Hand sanitizer. I am reluctant to mention this because antibacterial methods can be overused. But when hand washing isn’t possible (like in the car as we are leaving church or a play area), it’s the next best thing until we can get to a sink. Choose a hand sanitizer without triclosan, a chemical that is being investigated by the FDA for toxicity. You can find great natural options at Whole Foods or Sprouts locally. You can even make your own by mixing pure aloe vera with essential oils, primarily peppermint and lavender.
Probiotics. We take these every single day, year-round, along with our multivitamin. Probiotics help to balance the natural beneficial bacteria in the stomach and boost the immunity. Unfortunately, most probiotic supplements marketed to children are full of unnecessary sugar and contain very few live active cultures that would actually make it into the stomach. When buying a probiotic, look for something with at least 10 billion live active cultures. You’ll most likely find this strength in the refrigerated section of a natural foods store. You can rarely find this strength at a drug store or Target. Yogurt is great, but again, very few of the live active cultures from yogurt are living when they hit the stomach, so adding a supplement is still necessary. Kefir and kombucha are also great ways to get extra probiotics into kids. My kids love fruit flavored kefir!
Thieves oil*. A blend of essential oils, I apply this diluted oil to their feet before they go into childcare or preschool situations (about 6 times a week) or crowded play areas. When they are feeling yucky, I apply it before bed to the feet and to the chest. We also put a few drops on a cotton ball in the air vent of our car, and use it to create our own antibacterial hand soap.
Whole foods. My son’s pickiness is extreme, but regardless of his weird demands, I keep the kids’ diets as free from processed food, white flours, and refined sugar as I can. We focus on whole grains, fruits and veggies, and hormone-free meat (when we eat meat) to reduce the amount of toxins in their bodies. We also do green smoothies several times a week with dark leafy greens such as kale and swiss chard because they are high in antioxidants.
Sinus rinsing. I’m a huge fan of the neti pot for adults, but kids under 5 years old can’t really do a neti pot. Instead, we buy saline spray from the drug store. I start sinus rinsing at the first sign of runny nose or when coughing starts. Two things that are very important when using saline spray:
1) Saline ONLY, no drugs added to the spray. I’ve found recently that we have to buy adult saline spray to find a brand without added drugs or preservatives.
2) Start young. I started as infants, under 6 months old. Kids will be less averse to the rinsing if it is something they consider normal by the time they’re older.
3) All the saline must be removed by nose blowing or suctioning, otherwise you’re just creating a nice, moist environment for the germs to grow. I recommend the Nose Frida for babies less than a year old. I started using the Nose Frida on my kids as infants and they could both blow their own noses before they were 2 years old, as they were accustomed to the blowing sensation.
Elderberry extract. There are a lot of versions of elderberry syrup, but I suggest a straight extract or concentrate containing no sugar or preservatives. There is a very popular brand sold at Target and Walgreens that labels itself as elderberry syrup, when the #1 ingredient is fructose (sugar!), and the other ingredients are all unpronounceable chemical preservatives. There is very little therapeutic value in a syrup made largely of sugar and preservatives. I usually order elderberry concentrate online through Amazon or Vitacost, but you can also make your own from dried elderberries which can be purchased locally at Vitamin Cottage by Natural Grocer (several locations in the metroplex). It tastes really yummy!
Natural homeopathic cough syrup. My favorite natural, homeopathic cough syrup is Chestal, which can be found nearly everywhere now, even CVS and Target. But you can also make your own cough syrups, Pinterest contains millions of homemade recipes. The best part about these often honey-based remedies is that they are naturally sweet, so the kids actually like to take them!
Vaporub on the feet. For the same reason that I put Thieves oil on the feet, I put vaporub on the kids’ feet at night when they are coughing. You probably already apply vaporub to the chest, but the feet contain one of the highest concentrations of pores in the body, so using it on both locations maximizes exposure. Anything applied to the feet absorbs more quickly into the body.
Wish Garden Kick-It Immunity Drops for Kids. A very specific product mention, but I’m being 100% honest about what we use, and I put this into their elderberry extract as soon as anyone starts coughing or sniffling. I only do this one once a day, it seems pretty potent to me. It is also pricey, so I conserve it. I like to stock up during Sprouts’ biannual 20% off supplement sale.
Apple cider vinegar for nighttime coughing. Have you ever sat in agony in the next room while you listened to your baby cough in his or her sleep? I know I have! One night I searched the natural community for a remedy and came up with this: get a small spray bottle and fill it with apple cider vinegar. Go into your sleeping child’s room and shield their eyes with your hand. Spray a fine mist of ACV on the pillow or crib around the head. Make sure not to spray too closely to anywhere the child might roll onto before the ACV dries, because the vinegar would cause a burning sensation if it gets into the eyes before it dries. This works like a charm! Sometimes you might have to spray a few times, but this trick has done wonders for my children’s nighttime sleep when they are fighting off a potential illness.
That’s pretty much all our tricks! So far, it’s been working fairly well for us. The kids have had the sniffles and some coughs off and on, but not yet the flu (knock on wood!). I keep them home from childcare at church or preschool if they’re coughing so that they don’t pass germs on to other children, but the coughing is the body’s normal way of extracting mucus and it usually goes away in about a week if I keep up the treatments. I hope you’ll find something in this list helpful, and that I’m not reading your comments from the doctor’s office next week after my homemade remedies have failed…
* DISCLAIMER: I do sell Thieves oil as a Young Living distributor. I included it in this post because I feel that I need to be honest about all the things we use in prevention and treatment, I don’t intend to be promoting my own gain. Should you be interested, feel free to contact me, but also feel free to disregard this particular item on the list!