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Understanding Childhood Cold and Flu

The common cold and/or influenza are viral infections, not usually bacterial, of the upper respiratory tract, caused by invasion into the nose, throat, sinuses, or ears. The virus travels either from hand to mouth and nose, or through the air on minute droplets carrying infected secretions from one child to another. Because children’s immune systems are not yet fully developed, it is beneficial for them to catch these colds periodically. The invasion actually helps their immune system to develop antibodies, immune molecules that fight intruders entering the body, so that in the future the body is well equipped to deal with the same virus if ever reencountered. As such, the immune system develops over time into a coordinated machine capable of identifying and dealing with viruses in an efficient manner, recovering more rapidly than the first time.

Providing natural support, as opposed to suppressive medication, is important since it gives the body the tools to heal itself. Drugs, such as antipyretics (to help bring down a fever), anti-inflammatories (to decrease pain and ache), and antibiotics all take matters in to their own hands, so to speak, by manipulating the body’s natural responses.

A fever, for instance is beneficial in many ways, one being that it helps to kill foreign invaders in the body by increasing the efficiency of enzymes that kill them. Antipyretics however block the temperature from rising in the body. Although this makes the child more comfortable for the time being, it also prolongs the healing crises of the body. The child instead develops a long term low grade fever with a runny nose that just doesn’t go away. The better course would have been to let the temperature rise naturally (within safe range) and let the child’s body do what it is supposed to. This may be shocking to some because of scare tactics that the pharmaceutical industry has employed, affecting parents and doctors alike, that serious harm could result from a fever. Although this is not entirely false, the result has been over-prescription of antipyretics and related cold/flu medications at the cost of many children’s health.

The more indicative criterion for intervention is the behaviour of the child along with the temperature. If your childs temperature reading turns out to be 102 degrees Celsius but you find them behaving normally except for irritability and feeling hot and uncomfortable then this is a sign that their immune system is handling the cold just fine. There is no need panic or give drugs “just in case”, because it actually makes things worse. Periodically monitoring their behaviour and temperature, and following the instructions below will be more than sufficient. However, even if their temperature remains below 100 degrees Celsius but you notice that they are feeling very cold and are showing signs of non-responsiveness, it is safer to use medicine than wait for a specific “rise in temperature”. The take home message is that cold and flus are natural and children get over them naturally. Stay connected to how your child is feeling rather than what a thermometer is telling you.
Below are some supportive treatments you can provide to boost your child’s immune system and minimize the discomfort associated with these infections.

Homemade Rub

Take 4 tablespoons of olive oil and two drops of one or all of the following: eucalyptus, sage, rosemary, and/or peppermint oil. To ease your child’s coughing and soothe the respiratory tract, rub this mixture onto his/her chest.

Supplements

Vitamin C (500mg) – There is no harm in taking vitamin C even though its effectiveness can be disputed after a cold has set in. Generally, vitamin C supports the immune system and is a great antioxidant and has some anti-inflammatory properties as well. It may also benefit a fever. Give your child one dose three times daily for five days. Choose a formula without sugar and avoid chewable forms which can erode tooth enamel.
Zinc (10mg/day with food) – Also important to support the immune system and can often be found in supplements with Vitamin C.
Beta-carotene (1000 IU/day) – the body uses this to manufacture Vitamin A, which helps heal mucous membranes. Give your child a dose of beta-carotene, twice daily, for five days.

Herbs

Chamomile tea can be given twice a day to help your child relax and rest
Ginger tea helps to increase perspiration which helps to cleanse the body and reduce the intensity of the cold. Give one dose, every four hours, during the acute phase of the cold. Ginger may also stimulate a fever to peak and then subside.
Sage and thyme tea helps to break up congestion and bring down a fever. This can be given one dose up to three times daily, for three to five days.
Coltsfoot tea helps to clear congestion from the lungs. Make a tea and give one dose, three times a day, for two days
Echinacea can be taken as a tincture, tea, or in capsule form and is also found in many immune combo formulas. It is one out of many herbs that help to boost the immune response especially in viral infections. This is to be used at the first signs of infection and continued for up to a week after.
Goldenseal is antibacterial and healing to the mucous membranes. This can be taken in combination with Echinacea, three times a day, for 5 days to one week.
Lungwort can be given if your child has a cough and diarrhea. It is high in vitamin C, has astringent properties, and is known for its ability to clear a cough. Give one dose, two to three times per day, for two to three days
Osha root, in tea or tincture form, is highly aromatic and helps to clear the lungs. It is especially effective for dry coughs. Give one dose, three times daily, for 3-4 days
Thyme Tea is also beneficial for cough and helps relieve lung congestion

Diet

If your child doesn’t feel like eating, it’s best not to force food. Try to keep the foods simple and wholesome.
Children, particularly if there is a fever can become easily dehydrated so make sure they drink as much as possible. Fluids also help to thin secretions, making it easier for the body to eliminate them. Water, applesauce, broth, soups (especially vegetable or chicken soups), and herbal teas are all good examples.
Limit refined sugars. These tend to make the child more irritable and agitated and make the body more acidic (an environment that viruses thrive in).
Avoid dairy of any type – this includes milk/yogurt/cheese/ice-cream etc. These foods are mucous producing and may exacerbate the condition.
Increase the amount of onion and garlic in the diet. These are great anti-viral foods and also help to strengthen the immune system.
Try to avoid the foods that you know your child is sensitive to. This adds an even greater load to an already burdened immune system.

Hydrotherapy

Certain essential oils of herbs can be used in a humidifier or in bath water or an infusion of the herb can be made and put in the bath
To make an infusion, take 2-3 teaspoons of dried herb or 4-5 teaspoons of fresh herbs and put in boiling water. Turn the burner off and leave standing for 5 minutes, then strain into the bath water

Thyme – is very soothing, relieves lung congestion, and soothes a dry barking cough
Lavender – is also very soothing and will help to relax and calm
Valerian – is good to use before bedtime. It is very calming and promotes sleep
Eucalyptus – is more stimulating and should not be used before bed but will help to clear congestion
Sage – soothes sore throat and clears nasal congestion

Acupressure

These points can be pressed during an acute attack and can be found by feeling for a tender spot in the area of the point:

Lung 7 is located on the forearm near the wrist, just beside the styloid process and is useful to clear the lungs
Liver 3 is on the top of the foot in between the big toe and the second toe and slide your finger up from the web until the bones meet. Press in the depression before the junction of the two bones. This point helps quiet inflammation and is very calming but often painful.
Large Intestine 4 – is in the centre of the flesh between the thumb and first finger on the highest point. This relieves congestion and headaches, clears heat and promotes calm.

 

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