School starts again in about a week here and while I don't have school aged children myself, many of my clients do and have started asking what they can do to avoid illness coming home with their kiddos.
There is a lot that you can do with diet, lifestyle support and some helpful supplements to make sure your family has healthy immune systems. We also want to protect and prevent, but sometimes you get exposed to a cold or the flu and need remedies in hand. I'll try to cover both prevention and remedy/response in this post. Let's break this down by category:
1) Wash your hands. Yes, this is the most important thing we can do to help protect ourselves and our children. Help your children to remember before eating, after using the restroom, after sneezing (or picking a booger) to wash their hands. Also, as soon as they come home from school, the store, or the playground(really anywhere) they should go straight to the sink and wash their hands. While Because, let's be real it's easier to prevent illness than treat it. Who wants to be on antibiotics? Not me, or my kiddos.
2) Cut the sugar. Yes I said it. Sugar is the number one thing that tanks, yes TANKS your kids and your immune system. Now I don't mean cut fruit and I also don't mean never have sugar. I do mean lower your childrens' intake and pull desserts out of everyday if you have built cookies and ice cream dates into the usual routine. Remove juice and opt for the whole fruit. Eliminate all soda. Yes, ELIMINATE ALL SODA.
3) Tweak the diet. Increase leafy greens(even if it's just blended into a smoothie), like spinach, kale, swiss chard. Increase organic berries. Any berries are great blueberries, strawberries, etc. Make sure your child is eating some protein throughout the day. Include nuts and seeds (as long as your kiddo is not allergic) this is great way to get zinc by eating food instead of just supplementation. Zinc is really, really important for the immune system to fight viral infections.
4) Rest. Help your kids adjust those sleep schedules back to a normal time if they have been staying up late during summer months and will need to get up earlier to be ready for school.
5) Consider saying no to things. While it's fun for kids to be in drama productions, play volleyball, and be on the speech and debate team, maybe doing them all at the same time isn't necessary. What I'm saying is: lower your kids stress levels by limiting the amount of activities they are involved in. Allow for more play time and less productive/structured activity time because, hello homework. Sometimes saying no is hard, but it can relieve pressure and stress on the entire family.
Okay, now that this is out of the way... what else can we do to support healthy immune systems during cold and flu season.
SUPPLEMENTS- There I said it, yes supplements/vitamins. They help. I provide patients in my practice with access to high grade clinical supplements. Brands I trust that have third party testing for impurities and potency. I spend time vetting these brands/products. I will provide a link where you can purchase high quality supplements with 10% discount. I do make some money when you purchase from this site, if you choose to do so, I appreciate your support. I know you can purchase at your local Whole Foods, on Amazon or perhaps CVS, but if you make a purchase off this site you support my practice and ensure I can continue to bring you great information. Without further ado, my take on the daily things you should have your children taking during cold and flu season.
Daily multivitamin - If you question whether your kiddo eats enough fruit and vegetables, nuts/seeds your child may need more minerals and vitamins. The fact of the matter is our food system has been taxed by over production of single crops, and the nutrient values of foods are lower than they were 50 and 100 years ago, our soils are degraded and less rich in minerals. Choosing to supplement with a daily multi is like an insurance policy to make sure your kiddo is getting everything they need.
Zinc - can be liquid or a flavored lozenge. Using this for 3-4 months during the flu season. Dose this daily, it will help your kiddo avoid viral infections. (Food sources: nuts, beans, seeds, oysters). If you choose to supplement give this to your child with food as it can have some minor digestive effects if taken on an empty tummy.
Vitamin C - A highly regarded cochrane review study showed kids had less cold/flu symptoms when they took 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily. This study also showed children miss less days from school/day care when taking vitamin C. Ascorbic acid is the kind of vitamin C to take. This is another one worth taking with food as some people have GI side affects. Food sources of vitamin C include whole citrus foods (skip the juice), tomatoes, and strawberries.
Probiotic daily- lactobacillus and bifido bacterium strains have been shown to reduce incidence of fever, cough, runny nose, and days missed from school. This is a great option to obtain from food. Yogurt is an easy thing to incorporate into most children's diets. However, you can also double down and buy a probiotic for your kiddo.
Vitamin D3- I recommend supplementing this, especially in the school aged children. This is helpful to take in a liquid form. This can be added into water and doesn't affect taste at all. This does not need to be taken with food, but if you choose a liquid version, then add to water so it is easy to drink.
Vitamin D3 Dosage:
Echinacea is safe to be used daily for children. It is a cold prevention and a gentle herbal remedy. 2-5 years old- 1.5 tsp or 7.5 ml per day in divided doses - I would recommend the glycerin form instead of the alcohol base as it's sweeter and doesn't have a bite. For children 6 years or over - 2 tsp or 10 ml per day. This can be added to some water or given straight in the mouth. It prevents respiratory infections and helps ward off cold symptoms.
Elderberry syrup is the power house to help avoid viral infections. Everyone in my house takes this daily during flu season. It's one of the only compounds that can help destroy a virus. Bacteria multiplies on it's own, whereas viruses have to infect host cells to proliferate. The elderberry syrup helps to deactivate the part of the virus that breaks into the host cell. Children 2 and up can take 1 tsp of this daily. Increase to 1 tbsp daily if known exposure to someone with the flu or symptoms of flu or cold begin. Continue taking at this dose until the symptoms have completely resolved.
Here is a link to my dispensary. Free shipping on orders over $49 dollars, and remember 10% off everything. Once you create an account, click "go to the catalog" and look for childrens wellness recommedations.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
110 N McClelland Street
Santa Maria, California 93454
Hours: Tues and Thurs 10-5 PST