Where should you turn for natural supports in an infectious world?
Navigating uncertain times is no small feat, especially for parents who are concerned about how to keep their kids happy and safe. Measures to protect against COVID-19, such as school shutdowns, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing, have also contributed to worry among parents and kids alike.
While there isn’t sufficient data to recommend natural treatments for this particular viral strain, take heart in knowing there are ways to naturally support your child’s immune system so that it’s stronger and more resilient against infections that might come their way, including those caused by seasonal cold and flu viruses.
Built-in security system
Imagine going through airport security for a family trip. The X-ray machine scans the contents of your child’s suitcase to
assess whether they are safe to go on the plane. Your child’s immune system performs a similar function to determine whether substances from the external environment are safe to stay in their body. Dangerous substances such as germs trigger an immune response, which is the body’s attempt to eliminate threats from within.
When germs take up residence
Germs refer to microorganisms that often cause disease, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. While the
immune system does its best to avoid infection, germs often make themselves comfortable and overstay their welcome. Viruses are particularly bad houseguests, since they need a gracious host (like humans) to be able to live, and they hijack our cellular proteins at every stage of their life cycle. Common viruses include influenza, rhinovirus (the predominant cause of the common cold), and human coronaviruses, which can also cause the common cold and lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
- Children under one year old have the common cold six times per year, on average.
- Children between 10 and 14 years old have the common cold three times per year, on average.
- Seasonal flu is more common in children under age five.
Please do not touch
The best defense against infection is to avoid exposure to germs in the first place. The specific coronavirus (SARSCoV-2) that causes COVID-19, for example, is spread from an infected person through coughing, sneezing, close personal contact, and touching surfaces.
There’s still plenty of research to be done on this coronavirus, but the current understanding is that one contracts it by inhaling respiratory droplets or by contacting infected surfaces and then touching oral, nasal, and eye mucus membranes.
If you must bring your little one with you when shopping for essentials, hold their hand or bring a toy for them to hold so that they’re not touching items around them. Help your child avoid touching their face by making a game out of it. For example, whenever they reach to touch their face, have them scratch their knees instead.
Although research is ongoing into the stability rates of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, other human coronaviruses remain infectious on surfaces at room temperature for up to six days, which suggests that regular disinfection of surfaces at home may be helpful to prevent spread. After you touch an item with infectious rhinovirus, for example, the virus can remain on your fingertips and still be infectious for up to 24 hours.
At home, the most contaminated surfaces tend to be doorknobs, the fridge handle, the TV remote control, and bathroom faucets. Pay particular attention to items that your child handles often, including toys and touchscreens, and ensure that they’re frequently and thoroughly cleaned.
Poking holes in picky eating
Deficiencies in immune-modulating nutrients (including B vitamins; vitamins C, D, and E; iron; zinc; and selenium) impact the vulnerability of a host to infectious disease and alter the course and outcome of infection. In developed countries like America, the most common cause of nutrient deficiencies in kids tends to be picky eating, since many are fussy about eating nutrient-packed foods such as leafy green vegetables. Low vitamin D levels from insufficient food intake or sun exposure can increase risk of infection, especially of the respiratory tract. Restoring levels of deficient micronutrients to recommended levels increases resistance to infection and supports faster recovery. Particularly for picky eaters, eating food sources of these nutrients may not be enough; in this case, a multivitamin with minerals may be helpful.
Physical activity has many health benefits for children and teens, including improving cardiovascular health, promoting positive self-esteem, and reducing depression and anxiety.
Exercise may also be key in maintaining healthy immune function. Moderate-intensity exercise has been found to enhance the immune system; researchers believe this is due to improved immune surveillance, reduced inflammation, and improved psychological stress.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on six or more days per week.
Keeping spirits high
If your child continues to ask about COVID-19, they might be seeking assurance from you to manage their anxiety. Do your best to explain the situation without creating unnecessary fear of germs, mistrust of others, and worries about the future.
Chronic stress can affect immune function, so managing their stress by playing, creating, exercising, meditating, and talking with your little one is one of the best ways you can support their well-being during this time.
TOP 3 SUPPLEMENTS FOR KIDS’ IMMUNITY
Vitamin D supplementation in school-aged children may play a role in helping to reduce bouts of influenza A.Vitamin C supplementation can help reduce severity of the common cold and its duration by up to 14 percent in kids.Zinc supplementation may help reduce risk of pneumonia and the common cold,specifically, in kids. Lozenges taken within 24 hours of initial symptoms may shortenduration and severity of the common cold in children.
- Avoid cleaners with fragrance and volatile organic compounds, which are hazardous to health. Read labels for eco-certifications and check product safety on the Environmental Working Group’s app.
- Clean surfaces with natural disinfectants purchased at your local natural health retailer. You can find natural cleaners that are on the EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
- Wash hands with soap rather than sanitizer whenever possible: Soap dissolves viral fat membranes. Liquid castile soap is natural and eco-friendly.