Children’s Immunity: Support for School and Pre-school
It can come as quite a shock to new parents when their child brings home from pre-school or day-care the first winter full of new bugs to share around. Many families who had prided themselves on their robust immunity suddenly fall like dominoes with the merry-go-round of coughs, colds, sniffles and tummy bugs that seem to often do the rounds of early childhood centres. School, when it comes, can be a whole new ball game again- new people, new bugs to share, new viruses for our kids’ immune systems to get to know.
Herbalist and naturopath parents I know have often told me that they are surprised by just how much support their children need some winters to support good immune function. And yet this support is worth its weight in gold if it can prevent our littlies from getting sick, or reduce the duration and severity of their illness.
Alongside the core basics of good immune support for our children are the natural remedies we can utilise to maximise robust and vital immunity. Those basic essentials are good nutrition, good sleep, and reducing emotional or physical stress. In addition to this good foundation are the herbal remedies that have been used by humans for even longer than children have been going to school!
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Because prevention really is the best medicine (alongside laughter), any herb which can actually enhance and strengthen our innate ability to fight bacteria and viral insult is worth investigating. Echinacea is just such a herb. For kids, putting a daily dose of Echinacea in the drink bottle can be an easy way to sip immune support all day long.
Another great way to take it is in a hot blackcurrant drink, what we call a Hot Echi-Berry! This has the added benefit of a little hit of vitamin C and the goodness that comes from blackcurrants. Because a good quality Echinacea root preparation like Kiwiherb's Children's Echinature will give you a distinctive ‘tongue tingle’, this combines beautifully with the hot sweetness of the blackcurrant drink to give you an effervescent winter warmer.
Herbs for the first tickle: Stop that bug in its tracks!
At the first sign of illness, Echinacea can be ramped up from one dose a day to four doses a day. Research has shown that this is how Echinacea is best taken to shorten the duration of the sickness and reduce the severity of symptoms.
Echinacea root not only improves immune function by reducing inflammation and increasing immune cell (white blood cell) activity, it also can improve the healing of tissues, meaning sore raw throats and inflamed sinuses can benefit from more rapid relief.
Alongside the Echinacea to improve the immune response, specific herbs can be used to target particular areas and to alleviate symptoms. For children who have snotty noses, a touch of sinusitis or hay-fever that might actually be a cold, herbs such as Ribwort and Elderflower help to reduce congestion in the nasal passages and Peppermint can assist with ease of breathing.
Thyme, Thyme Honey and Manuka Honey all have potent anti-microbial activity, targeting bacteria and viral infections especially in the throat. These just happen to also taste absolutely fantastic, which really helps when treating small people. You can eat this syrup off the spoon, or drizzle it on porridge or pancakes. Medicinal pancakes has got to be a good thing!
Herbs for coughs and chest congestion include the wonderful Hyssop, the elegant and resilient Mullein, and the herb that children will love the name of: Marshmallow! No it isn’t like marshmallows, although the flowers are pink and white. Instead it is a herb that soothes the lungs and helps reduce the spasm of coughing. Hyssop and Mullein also calm and soothe a cough and help to reduce mucus production in the lungs. These herbs are suitable for both ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ coughs, and everything in-between (most coughs tend to be a bit of both if we’re honest!) and can be found in Children's Chest Syrup.
So gather your herbal resources, for Winter Is Coming, and catching bugs early is the name of the game!