Boost Your Child’s Immune System
Fighting Diseases NaturallyFrances Dalton Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist, Mindd Foundation, Medical Advisory Board mindd.org Children do get ill. And – it is an important part of their immune development. More often than not their illnesses are short lived and serve merely to prime their immune system and strengthen their defenses. While this is happening it is important to support their body's immune system and allow their bodies the time and space to heal themselves. Obviously there are times where medical intervention is important, but this is rare. The most common illnesses your children are likely to encounter are viruses that cause colds and flu, sore throats, bacterial infections of the ear and chest and common childhood illnesses such as chickenpox and measles. Dr Robert Mendelsohn, an American paediatrician and author of numerous books including “How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor” has the following advice:
- Most things get better by morning
- Parents and grandparents are wiser than doctors
- If your child doesn’t feel sick, look sick and act sick, he probably is not sick
- Give mother nature ample time to work her magic before you expose your child to the doctor
- Common sense is the most useful tool in dealing with illness. Your doctor is less likely to employ it than you are, and certainly no more able.
The Healing Power of a Fever for the Immune SystemWhen your child gets a fever, it can be very worrying. It is not however as most parents believe, something that needs to be suppressed the moment it arrives. Fever is an indication that your child is trying to ‘burn off’ something which is not meant to be there. It is an extremely clever natural mechanism that the body employs to defend itself against unwanted pathogens. The most common cause of fever is an infection by a virus or by bacteria. As the immune army gets to work to destroy what ever intruder they have identified in your child’s body, chemicals called pyrogens are released. These are designed to raise the body temperature and make the cleansing exercise more efficient. The fever they produce is very beneficial. High body temperature stimulates the immune system to produce more white blood cells. It also increases heart rate so that white blood cells get delivered to the sites of infection more rapidly and their secretions are increased. In addition, heat increases antibody production and intensifies the effect of interferon. It can also speed up chemical reactions which may help body cells to repair themselves during a disease. A fever is the way the body works to heal itself. I encourage all parents to think twice before reaching for the panadol. Such medicines not only reduce the temperature and therefore the child’s immune system activity, but also mask the symptoms so that your child temporarily feels better. I think that this is a real mistake because the child is then likely to do things that will not be helpful to the healing process – such as running around and eating. Whenever your children get ill, pop them into bed with a big jug of diluted organic apple juice and vitamin C and let them sleep, watch videos, read stories and get better. Suppressing their symptoms with drugs can often lead to lingering illness. Obviously fever has its beneficial limit – a raised temperature is different from a temperature spiraling out of control. It is also very important to look for other symptoms such as rashes, difficulty breathing or unnatural floppiness, which may indicate something more serious.
- The most important thing is to make sure that she does not get dehydrated, since sweating and runny nose that often accompany a fever can deplete the body of fluids. Give tepid, diluted apple juice or blackcurrant and apple juice every hour, and if she is a reluctant drinker pop a straw in, which will encourage her.
- If your child is not hungry, don’t insist that she eats. Energy taken up digesting food is energy channeled away from the healing process. Make plenty of raw juices which will help rehydrate your child’s body, supply plenty of antioxidants and encourage the elimination of toxins. Most children love fresh raw juices.
- Tepid sponging can be very effective at bringing down a fever naturally. However some children don’t like it – for these children a tummy compress can be an effective fever controller and detoxifier. Essential oils of lavender and peppermint are good to add.
- Homeopathic remedies are also a great way to help with fevers
- Herbal teas can also be given – sweetened with honey. Useful teas include: Linden flower, Lemon balm, Chamomile, Peppermint, Elderflower and Yarrow.
Immense System smarts: Dealing with Colds and Viruses
- At the first sign of a sniffle, mix 300ml filtered water with 1000mg of powdered vitamin C. Offer it at regular intervals through the day, until the whole jug has been drunk.
- At the first shiver – give a cup of hot Elderflower and Peppermint tea sweetened with honey, keep them warm and send them to bed with another small cupful.
- Keep the bedtime bath short and add a couple of drops of lavender oil or a strong infusion of thyme and rosemary to it.
- Fill a plant mister with warm water and add 2 drops each of lavender and Eucalyptus and spray it around the room.
- Give your children a juice boost packed full of immune boosting nutrients and antioxidants.
- Zinc lozenges can be very useful for boosting the immune system, combating colds and soothing a sore throat.
- Avoid mucus forming foods which have a tendency to increase and thicken mucus. These foods are milk, cream, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, meat and sugary foods.
- Avoid fatty foods which thicken the lymph and encourage a sluggish lymphatic system.
- A Mustard footbath at bedtime is very effective or a footbath with a strong infusion of rosemary and thyme or sage – all strongly antiseptic herbs that can be absorbed through the skin of the feet. For a mustard footbath – Take a plastic bucket and put in 2 heaped teaspoons of English Mustard Powder; half fill the bucket with water as hot as your child can stand. After about 10 mins, when the feet are bright red, take out and towel them dry. Pull on thick cotton socks and put them in bed at once.
- Herbal Medicines of Echinacea and Golden seal at recommended doses can be given. Echinacea is both antibacterial and antiviral. Golden Seal is antibacterial and is noted for healing irritated mucus membranes. Elderberry extract is also antiviral and has been shown to reduce the length of a cold. Forming a relationship with a naturopath or herbalist who can prescribe simple herbal remedies for childhood illnesses as the need arises is a really good idea.