Now is the time to prepare for the school year and one thing is certain, your children may be exposed to all sorts of microbes and viruses that promote colds and the occasional flu not to mention stomach bugs and everything else that is going around at the time. One teacher says that they work in a ” cesspool of germs”. Perhaps this comment is a little unkind but children are exposed to quite a lot while they are at school. So let’s have a look at a few issues –

  • Children under age of say 12 have immature immune systems or immune systems that are maturing. Immune systems are constantly developing and changing depending on the amount of exposure to bacteria and viruses and environmental toxins. Recent research shows that to develop a healthy immune system one needs lots of exposure in different environments – zoos, dog parks, beaches, and farms etc are all alive with organisms both bad and good that help develop a Healthy immune system. Conversely, Healthy immune systems are not developed sitting home watching TV!   It has been found that if children are exposed to different environments then they are less likely to develop allergies and be less susceptible to colds and flus.
  •  Developing Gut Bacteria starts right from when they leave the womb and the Bacteria responds to the envoirnment. It has been found that exposure to different envoirments and microorganisms helps to develop healthy gut flora. The gut flora becomes diverse and becomes better at handling the different allergenic pathogen or microbes that come along.  A healthy gut promotes a healthy immune system as they are symbiotic, in other words, they work together.
  • Digestive function is in its infancy. Children are not born with cast iron stomachs ready to digest everything that comes along. Research has shown that digestive function takes time to mature and that low stomach acid levels can be the norm at times. The Chinese typically start a child when ready for solids on a Congee. Congee is a rice gruel that has boiled for quite some time and either some vegetables or meat protein are added for increased nutrition. This is a respectful way to commence digestive life and then progress into more thicker soups and eventually normal everyday solid foods. It is thought that warm cooked foods are easy to digest for the child. What a child is fed is debatable between parents and nutritionists but it is thought that a broad spectrum diet containing most food groups is essential for exposing the child to a wide range of nutrients, fibres, and potential allergens. Since a little bit of everything is being consumed then this exposure lessens the potential to become allergic to a particular food.  It is even recommended that exposure to eggs and peanuts be done in minute doses at an early age to help develop immunity to these possible allergens.

Ok so good for discussion on some thoughts for child health but what to do for the Cold or touches of flu or stomach bugs that abound at times.

  1. Upset tummy: probiotics are very useful here and children’s strains have been developed which are more appropriate to their stage in life. The probiotic or strain of probiotic tends to crowd out the bad or pathogenic strains that may be contributing to the upset tummies. Upset tummies in children may reflect stress in the environment as the stomach is influenced by the vagus nerve which is affected by emotional issues. Upset tummies respond well to weak warm teas of lemon balm, or ginger, or chamomile which can be flavored with honey ( Manuka honey is best )
  2. Colds: Colds are quite common in the classroom and are viruses. The best remedy is bed rest, warm chicken soups and appropriate doses of children’s cold remedies such as containing the Herb Sambucus Nigra commonly called Elderflower. This Herb has potent antiviral properties and while cannot cure a cold will lessen its intensity. Children’s formulas are available for example Herbs of Gold brand -Children’s Cold care http://www.herbsofgold.com.au  which is typical of a good cold remedy.
  3. Coughs:  Along with the colds often comes a nagging cough with or without mucus.  Recent research shows that Manuka honey in high strength is as good as any and  Manuka has anti-bacterial qualities as well.  Essential oils such as Pine, Eucalyptus or Thyme, for example, are great examples of oils that can be vapourised at night next to the bed for good effects. ( use  electronic vaporizers only no candle  lit as there is potential for fire )  Pharmaceutical cough preparations should only be used with professional advice and preferably avoided unless all else fails. Naturally, with any cold – cool drinks, cordials and fruit juices or milk should be avoided as they create more congestion due to sugar and allergen content. Warm foods and drinks are the best.
  4. Repeat Colds and congestion:  This is a common problem with Children who are exposed to others in the classroom and seems like no sooner than they get over one episode then they catch another, especially at the change of seasons. It is not unusual to hear of a child having 2 -3 lots of Antibiotics in a year. With some Children, their immune systems are weak or taking time to develop and as such may be more prone compared with others in catching anything that is going around. If this is the case one famous remedy for boosting the immune system and has been used in Oriental Medicine for centuries; and is safe with children is called Yu Ping San (  Jade Screen Formula ) This formula contains Herbs that dry mucous and promote immunity. It is particularly suited to Children as it is also good for preventing responses to food allergies and Airborne allergies in general. Great for Asthmatics as a preventative and for those who have constant runny noses. Of course in these type of children, good nutrition is everything and eating foods that contain zinc are very beneficial. If this Formula is not available then liquid Echinacea and Astragalus is a great combination.

With Herbal remedies for Children doses appropriate to  age are important so either follow the manufacturer’s advice or seek the advice of the Health consultant as to the best for your child.