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7 Ways to Keep Kids Healthy this Winter

It looks as though winter is here to stay and with that we know runny noses, coughs, and congestion are just around the corner. In this article I am sharing with you some simple and effective ways to help keep the immune systems of your little ones strong for the winter season.

Elderberry syrup is a delicious folk remedy used for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. It is rich in vitamins A, C, bioflavonoids, and antioxidants that boost the immune system and damage the virus cell wall. A study in the Journal of International Medical Research, showed patients given elderberry syrup recovered an average of 4 days faster from the flu than those not taking the supplement. Now that sounds good to me!

Honey There is lots of research on honey, showing it to be more effective in the treatment of night time coughs in children, than over the counter cough medicines. Cough suppressants can’t be given to children younger than 6 years old (not that you want too!), leaving parents with young children stuck. Go for Honey! Honey is loaded with antimicrobial agents that attack everything from viruses, bacteria, and fungus.  It soothes mucus membranes (ie, throats!) and is anti-inflammatory. Use unpasteurized honey and mix it with your herbal tea, hot water or lemon. You can also take a tsp right off the spoon. This is one remedy your children won’t argue with you about! Remember not to give honey to children younger than One years old.

Herbal Teas There are so many beneficial herbal tea blends that can minimize those nasty cold and cough symptoms. Sage, is a wonderful herb, that dries up runny noses and wet coughs. Slippery elm is a demulcent, and very soothing. It is great for coating an irritated throat. Chamomile is a household favorite of many. It calms a spasmodic cough and settles the nervous system promoting a restful sleep. All these teas can be mixed with a little honey and now we are using two remedies in one. 

Maintain your child’s microflora If you don’t already, think about supplementing your child with a good probiotic. There is so much research coming out on the microbiome, with these friendly bacteria being key players in keeping an immune system strong.  You can add a small amount to your child’s food (usually ¼ tsp of powder) daily. Look at Seroyals HMF, Bio-K, NFH or Metagenics.

Castor Oil Chest Rubs I love this folk lore remedy. Castor oil has wonderful healing properties when applied to the skin. It is a pale yellow liquid extracted from the castor seeds (Ricinis communis) and is an excellent anti-inflammatory. This oil is to be applied externally and not to be consumed! Make sure you buy it unrefined oil from a health food store. This oil helps to move any congestion internally and promote lympathic  drainage, which in turn supports the immune system. I think it is also nice to have some touch to the area needing some extra love and our own healing hands can do that.

Be mindful of the sugar content in foods Sugar is found in obvious places such as cookies and candies, but can also be hidden in cereals, granola bars, crackers and tomato sauce. Sugar will suppress the immune system, so a helpful tip is to read labels to be aware of the sugar content. Try buying less packaged food, which is where sugars are often hidden.

Rest I know life is busy; work, household responsibilities, siblings to care for, but what a child really needs when they are unwell, is rest. Take the opportunity to slow down and cuddle with your little one. Before you know it you will be back to the daily grind of life, wishing for a nap with your wee one. 

I hope you and your family are healthy this winter season, and beyond. If you have any specific questions contact a medical or naturopathic doctor.

Written by: Dr. Rachel Schwartzman ND


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