Keeping Children Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
By, Julie S. James, CNC
It is normal for children, whose immune
systems aren’t fully developed, to get as many as 8 to 10 colds
a year (about twice as many as adults). Children’s colds aren’t
necessarily a sign of poor health—kids bring colds home from
school, and it is hard for them to avoid getting sick during the
winter months. Getting sick can be part of a child’s normal
process of building resistance to disease. But it is no fun, and
should be avoided whenever possible.
Colds and flu are caused by viruses
transmitted from an infected person by sneezing or coughing, or
by physical contact with a person or contaminated objects, such
as telephones, money, pens or foods. As the virus increases,
mucous membranes in the respiratory tract swell and mucous
production increases, causing air passages to narrow and making
breathing difficult. Along with the usual fever, muscle aches,
nausea, headache, chills, dry cough, runny nose and sore throat,
one can end up feeling generally lousy.
Go to a doctor if your child has severe
symptoms, but for the “common cold”, a doctor wont be able to
help you. Antibiotics are of no use in treatment of viruses, and
we still have no “cure” for the cold or flu.
With cold and flu season upon us, it is
important that we focus now on prevention of these illnesses;
after all, the best offense is a good defense--the best way to
fight a cold is to avoid getting it in the first place.
So what is our best defense strategy?
Following the recommendations below can go a long way towards
Wash your hands often, at least 4 times
per day. Use regular soap, not antibacterial (regular soap
and hot water will do just as well, unless you have a severe
infectious condition). This simple action has been shown in
clinical studies to reduce cold and flu by up to 40%!
Get enough sleep. Inadequate rest
increases stress and lowers immunity.
Get some exercise every day. Exercise
strengthens immunity and increases oxygen in the
bloodstream, which is deadly to most viruses and bacteria.
Do not, however, engage in strenuous exercise when sick,
which can just depress the immune system even more.
Eat well. A variety of healthy foods
provide a wide range of nutrients, which supports general
health. Those with a limited diet, especially those who eat
little or no fruits and vegetables, should take a natural,
high quality multivitamin and mineral to supply the
nutrients they aren’t getting in their diet. Stay away from
sugars, even in fruit juices, while sick, as they weaken the
system. If your child wants fruit juice, try mixing it with
half as much water to dilute the natural sugars. One serving
of sugary foods can suppress immune response for as long as
five hours. Sodas are especially bad culprits: 12 ounces of
soda can contain as much as 9 teaspoons of sugar!
Discontinue all wheat and dairy products while ill, as the
proteins in these foods may cause an increase in mucous
Drink lots of water. Water helps our body
to eliminate toxins, reduces body temperature and thins
secretions, making coughs more productive.
Get outside. Ultraviolet light (UVB from
sunlight) has been used successfully to treat viral
pneumonia, blood infections and a range of other viral,
bacterial and fungal infections. 20 minutes a day can have a
very beneficial impact on immunity.
In addition to these measures, there are
certain nutrients that will help your body to fight off
infection. Vitamin C is of course the first vitamin one thinks
of when a cold attacks and no wonder! C has been shown to
decrease the duration and severity of the common cold in
otherwise healthy people. C stimulates the action of white blood
cells, and your body uses up a tremendous amount of vitamin C
when ill. Vitamin C rich foods include red bell peppers, fresh
citrus fruits, berries, raw broccoli, papaya, and kiwi. Remember
that heating and processing destroy vitamin C, so have all these
foods fresh. Vitamin A (beta-carotene) supports the health of
the immune system and maintains the mucous membranes, which are
the first line of defense against infection. Foods high in
beta-carotene are sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupes,
apricots, tomatoes, winter squash, tuna and green vegetables.
Beta-carotene is easier to absorb from cooked foods than raw, so
lightly steam those carrots before eating to get the full
benefit of the nutrition! Zinc promotes a healthy immune system,
is anti-viral and anti-bacterial, and helps with wound healing.
Zinc is found in whole grains, seafood (especially clams, crabs,
oysters and salmon), red meats, dark poultry meat, and nuts and
Herbs can be of great benefit in support of
your immune system, but don’t use herbs on young children
without proper supervision and a recommendation from a trusted
health resource. There are a few exceptions to this rule,
though: Garlic can be used liberally in your cooking, where it
acts as a powerful antibiotic, killing off a great variety of
harmful viruses and bacteria. Peppermint tea can be used to
reduce nasal stuffiness (drink a cup, or just inhale the vapors
from steaming cup of tea. Both are helpful). Cinnamon has been
shown to fight a wide range of harmful organisms, and can help
break up congestion. Sprinkle some on applesauce or hot cereal,
or add to hot drinks (try some hot apple juice-diluted with
water, of course-with a cinnamon stick). You have probably heard
of the well-known herb Echinacea for treatment of cold and flu
and it is, indeed, a great herbal ally for most people. However,
it is not recommended for use with conditions such as
scleroderma or any autoimmune disorders, as it may overstimulate
the immune system indiscriminately.
Keeping our children healthy and safe is our
primary job as parents. Following these simple measures will pay
off by strengthening our children’s resistance to disease, and
will set good habits for the future.
Please keep in mind, this webpage is for your information only.
Please check with your child's physician for any treatments.
For more information on Juvenile Scleroderma, contact:
Juvenile Scleroderma Network, Inc.
1204 W. 13th Street, San Pedro, CA 90731
Tel: (310)519-9511 (Pacific Time)
24 Hour Support Line: 1-866-338-5892 (toll-free)
Speak to another JSD parent for emotional and logistical support
provided by home-based JSD volunteers. For medical advice, please
contact your child's physician.
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