As we head into the winter months, is your immune system ready to take on the “common cold”? With over 200 types of viruses and some bacteria that are responsible for upper respiratory tract infections, the average adult gets hit with a cold two to four times a year. Kids have twice as much chance of getting sick. And yet, most over the counter meds are not recommended for kids under 6 years old. So, what can you do to arm you and your kids’ immune systems to fight back? Acupuncture and herbs can help the body recover from illness in a timely manner and often help avoid antibiotics. Here are a few tips and tools to have on hand this cold season that you can do at home bringing relief to you and your whole family.
1. Acupressure Massage – Chinese medical massage can be quite effective in pediatrics. Symptoms change rapidly in kids, which means they don’t require strong treatment. The following massage techniques can be done 3 times a day.
2. Honey* with sage or thyme – A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down – well in this case, a spoonful of honey is the medicine. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and FDA do not recommend children under the age of 6 take over the counter cough and cold medicines because they pose a risk and don’t work. Instead 2012 study showed that taking 2 teaspoons of honey 30 minutes before bed can soothe sore throat and cough and allow the whole household to sleep better.
- ½ cup fresh or ¼ cup dried thyme or sage
- 8 ounces honey
Gently heat honey in a saucepan. Add either the thyme or sage and stir for about 10 minutes. Transfer the honey to a canning jar, seal and put in a warm place for 2-3 weeks. Then reheat the honey in a saucepan until it is liquid. Pour the honey through a fine mesh strainer into a clean jar. If you store the honey in a cool, dark cabinet it will be good for at least a year.
* Children under the age of 1 should not have honey due to the risk of botulism. Consider substituting maple syrup for the honey.
3. Ginger tea – If you’ve taken a chill, ginger is a great herb that will do more than just warm you from the inside out. Ginger’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties will help combat viruses, shrink nasal swelling and will soothe a sore throat. In Chinese medicine, the heat of ginger will push the pathogen out.
1 inch of fresh ginger root or ½ teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ cup of water
Gently boil water and ginger in a covered saucepan for 15-20 minutes. Strain, add honey and lemon juice. Sip and start to feel some relief for a sore throat or cough!
4. Humidifier / essential oils – Colds and flus tend to thrive in the low humidity of fall and winter months. This is a time when the air is naturally drier compounded by central heat drying out the air even more. Since our nasal passages are the first line of defense against viruses, it is important to keep a good level of moisture in our mucous membranes. Using a humidifier is an easy way to ensure moisture level in the air at home. Remember it is important to clean your humidifier with hydrogen peroxide every few days to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria and then adding that to the air you breathe! Add a little aromatherapy with lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus.
5. Diet – What you eat is the foundation of your immune system. A diet with probiotics and fermented foods help your gut bacteria to have healthy balance of good bacteria which will support strong immune function. If you or your kids start to feel sick, decrease the amount of sugar and white flour foods that you consume. These foods can slow down the immune system and make it harder for the body to deal with congestion. Often the number of respiratory track infections increase after Halloween as we head into the holidays also known as "candy season". Sugar can be hard to avoid during this time of the year, but in my experience it is essential to set limits.
Avoiding germs is not possible and will strengthen children's immune system. By using the above tricks, you can help to relieve symptoms and help to kick the pathogen out faster. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.