Now that the kids are back to school and fall is settling in, we know cold and flu season will quickly follow. Like many other parents, I do my best to prevent illness and when something minor does strike (which seems inevitable), I prefer to avoid conventional medicines that are filled with synthetic ingredients and artificial dyes, and try to prevent the unnecessary overuse of antibiotics.
After years of taking a more holistic approach to my children’s health and working to promote wellness by helping the body heal itself, I have some of my tried and true tips to share:
1. Eat whole foods. Today’s heavily processed convenience foods are loaded with artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, salt, sugar, and more. Whole, fresh foods are far healthier – and, if you can afford organic, it’s well worth the investment. Eating organic will help you avoid pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in meats and dairy products, and limit your exposure to GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Artificial, processed foods and chemicals depress your immune system. If your body is working to battle these constant exposures, it is less able to take on the cold and flu bugs effectively!
2. Stay Hydrated. Adequate fluid intake is not only important to prevent dehydration, but it also helps to thin nasal secretions, and helps flush the body as a whole. These are essential during the cold season.
3. Sleep. It may go without saying, but a sick body has to work overtime and can use extra rest. Young children may fight against the natural urge for extra sleep, so keep your child’s bedroom dark and peaceful to help encourage rest, and be sure to keep sleep on your own priority list!
4. Try homeopathic remedies. Do your research before investing in alternative remedies – every individual has different needs and many of us have found supplements or remedies that work well for us or for our children. In our house, I always keep Oscillococcum™ on hand throughout the season, as well as a variety of single remedies for cold and flu symptoms.
5. Turn up the heat. I don’t mean the thermostat, I mean steam and hot beverages. Hot beverages like tea and even hot water with lemon and honey are naturally soothing to sore throats and help with congestion, too. (Consult your healthcare provider before trying herbal teas other than chamomile, as not all herbal teas are safe for children, and do not give honey to children younger than 1.) Another helpful healing tactic is to take a steam bath by sitting in the bathroom with the shower turned on as hot as it can go. (To prevent accidents, young children should be supervised during steam baths.)
6. Look to nature. Nature provides a wealth of resources for all of your winter issues. Fennel seed steeped in hot water is great for nausea, as is fresh ginger. A few drops of eucalyptus oil in a vaporizer or steamer helps with lung congestion. The many ways we can harness the power of nature for healing goes on and on.
7. Let a fever do its job. A fever is your body's way of battling viruses – germs just don’t survive and thrive as well in hotter temperatures. The heat also helps blood circulate faster which helps germ-killing proteins reach their targets more effectively. If your child is comfortable with a mild fever, letting it do its thing can actually speed-up the recovery process.
Here’s hoping your family stays happy and healthy this cold and flu season! Please share your tips in the comments!
Note: This is not intended as medical advice.
Want to learn more about Holistic Living? During October, we celebrate Holistic Living Month and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to connect with us somehow – whether you can make it to our 9th Annual Natural Living Conference in Chicago, connect with a local chapter, or join us online for one of our many events scheduled throughout the month – we’d love to meet you!
A leading voice in the natural parenting movement, Nancy Massotto, Ph.D, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network and mother to two boys. An articulate and knowledgeable writer and speaker on holistic living, natural parenting, and eco-conscious lifestyles, she shares her passion with a wide variety of audiences as a presenter and author. She is passionate about empowering women, supporting mothers, and raising her children as naturally and sustainably as she can.