As a parent, it’s pretty much the worst to have a sick child, for many reasons. The heart-wrenching empathy when they can’t blow their nose or don’t understand why a fever is so uncomfortable. Sleepless nights for them, and you. Tears. Not to mention parents missing work or juggling the childcare situation that arises. This is why it’s so important to be vigilant about illness prevention during the Fall and Winter months especially. I have some tips for you all about how to keep your kiddos feeling their best and also how to help them get over the bugs as fast as possible. I hope it helps your family this season! Photography by Heather Gallagher
By Sarah Senter, L.Ac. of @medicine_kitchen
1 / Vitamin D3
I find my kids are most healthy when taking extra Vitamin D during the school year. This is my #1 supplement for kids. I try to never miss a day from August – January to keep their immune systems strong and resilient. We tend to get less Vitamin D from the sun this time of year as we spend more and more time indoors, and it really helps to support immunity. This goes for adults as well! Vitamin D gummies are super easy to take for kids, and especially good if you can find one with added Vitamin K to help absorption.
2 / Zinc or Vitamin C
You can give Zinc supplements to children daily as well for illness prevention in a liquid or lozenge. This mineral is a great immune booster and will reduce the likelihood of catching so many viral infections during the school year as well. Vitamin C supplementation is also a good option – I usually choose 1-2 supplements for kids and work with them for awhile before I change it up to something else if I’m not seeing results. Keep it simple & don’t overwhelm them. Vitamin C protects against immune system deficiencies and can be a great preventative aid as well.
3 / Cut Down on Sugar + Dairy
In Chinese medicine we see dairy & sugar products as “damp-producing” foods – no bueno for phlegm and mucus problems. There have also been numerous studies on the immediate negative effect of sugar on your immune system, so it’s a good idea to keep the sweets to a minimum around the peak cold and flu season.
4 / Essential Oils
Thieves oil and Lemon oil are two of my favorite essential oils to have at home that are naturally anti-microbial and anti-viral. You can use a dilution of these to clean surfaces around the house or diffuse weekly to purify the air. For acute relief, DoTerra makes an oil blend called Breathe that is especially nice for any respiratory disorder or cough and you can use it directly on the skin by rubbing a few drops on the chest or back. Kids generally do great with essential oils and they are easy to apply!
5 / Hydration + Humidifier
The lungs and respiratory system do not like to be dry. Dryness is what can lead to many respiratory disorders during the winter months when the heaters are on overnight and when noses are congested and kids do more mouth-breathing — forcing more dry air straight into the lungs. Make sure your children stay hydrated even though they may not be getting hot and sweaty as much this season. If your little ones tend to get sick easily – consider a humidifier in their room overnight to keep the air moistened and give the lungs an easier environment in which to breathe/heal.
6 / Pediatric Herbal Remedies
One of the beautiful things about being an herbalist in my access to great pediatric Chinese herbal remedies. In one herbal consult we can discuss the needs of your child and get you lined up with several herbal remedies to have on hand this season to match any of your child’s symptoms that may arise. This is such a useful visit to make for your child and home medicine cabinet, and herbal remedies can drastically shorten the duration & severity of illnesses. A favorite general OTC herb for kids is Elderberry syrup which can also be taken preventatively during the cold/flu season.
7 / Garlic-Honey Lemonade
Whether it’s a stomach flu, respiratory virus or cough that lingers on, this anti-viral lemonade recipe is a great one to have in your back pocket. I saved this years ago from Aviva Romm’s book Naturally Healthy Babies and Children – a useful book for any home with children! – and I still use it today. Garlic has potent anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, as does Manuka honey which I use in this as well. Best served warm at a tea party to soothe throats and coughs, but a tall glass at room temperature never hurts either.
Garlic Honey Lemonade:
Mince 2 large cloves of fresh garlic and place them in pitcher. Fill the vessel with boiling water and cover for 30 minutes. Strain out the garlic, and to the liquid add the juice of 1 ½ whole lemons. Sweeten to taste with Manuka honey (~ 1 tbsp more or less to taste). Serve warm and offer as much to the “patient” as they will drink.
Sarah Senter is an acupuncturist and founder of Medicine Kitchen. In addition, Sarah founded a business group this year called The Circle with two friends, both of whom have been featured on Love Child.