November 20, 2009

It's the "Snottiest" time of the year (or how to stay healthy for the holidays!)


This time of year, seasonal colds and flues keep us mamas on our toes. Crowded shopping malls, late nights and sugary treats that start at Halloween and don't end till the New Year don’t help maintain good health. Common offered wisdom suggests a trip to the doctor’s office at the first sign of illness but that advice gets expensive with multiple kids and may not be all that wise. There is an alternate school of thought regarding doc visits and you can bet, it’s one I personally espouse.

I’ve said before that in our house, nutrition, exercise (read: moving around in fresh air!), general good hygiene (washing hands after being around others) and using common sense (cancel play dates with feverish kids) go a long way in maintaining good health in the “snotty” season. Also, avoiding trips to the doctor when it’s likely an illness that will burn out on its own limits our kids’ exposure to new airborne illnesses they might not have yet had. Even a pediatrician meticulous about cleanliness can’t avoid the airborne viruses that – you know – FLY, like some kind of magic pixie dust (if there were BAD pixie dust). So, what’s a mom to do?

You might have guessed that we don’t run to the doctor or request antibiotics every time we get a sniffle or even a fever. Fevers are our body’s way of fighting illness so while we watch fevers carefully and treat them as listed below we avoid Tylenol in favor of our kids’ having healthy livers. (See article) Of course, if at any time our children seemed dangerously ill, we’d seek medical attention. Usually they recover without a trip to the doctor.

Here are some of the remedies we use for staying or getting healthy (‘cause let’s face it, even Organic Mama’s babies get the sniffles sometimes).

At the first sign of illness – Common sense stuff
  • Don't WAIT till illness rears its ugly head. As soon as that "funky" feeling comes on...take action!
  • Put kids in bed on time (or early) and let them sleep in if at all possible
  • Avoid dairy & sugar
  • Avoid orange juice (freshly squeezed or otherwise). Contrary to popular belief, it increases phlegm in the body!
  • Add more clear (not sugary) liquids
  • Increase easy to digest, COOKED fresh veggies (uncanned)
  • Serve magic homemade chicken soup – get recipe here & info on why it works here 
  • Use Echinacea tincture
  • Use tea. Traditional Medicinals - has several great herbal teas formulated just for kids. They have one for colds, another for tummies and another for coughs. They include the proper way to prepare and dose the teas and they taste pretty good too. Available at places like Sprouts, Whole Foods, Sunflower markets etc.
Specific Symptoms

Stuffy noses
  • Use Saline nasal wash at least three times a day (We use Simply Saline for our kids since I can’t figure out how to convince a squirming 10 month old that a neti pot is fun!)
  • Rinse nose with Hydrogen Peroxide. 1 part HP to 5 parts water. THIS IS FOR ADULTS ONLY! Yes, you'll feel like ripping your face off with your bare hands. BUT, you will NOT get a sinus infection if you do this a few times as soon as you feel icky. 
  • **Forgot about one till last night - when we needed it! Vicks vapor rub. It's an old remedy and has petroleum jelly as a base, but it's golden!
  • Real lemonade – juice one lemon into 8 ounces of water and add honey or maple syrup (REAL, not the corn syrup kind) to taste. Kids love it, it contains natural Vit C and cools a fever
  • Echinacea Angustifolia tincture – in tea, water or juice. It’s a fever reducer and immune booster. Available at Whole foods, Chakra 4 etc.
  • Lukewarm showers or baths (never cold). Rapid temperature change can induce febrile seizures
  • Dark Honey – the BEST remedy for coughs and most kids love taking it. A study reported in 2007 confirmed that it works BETTER than cough medicine. And it’s all natural. Just offer a spoonful of dark honey - like buckwheat - when a child is coughing.
  • Cherry cough tea – spicy, sweet immune booster that soothes coughs. Recipe here
  • Chakra 4’s Flu berry tea - a spicy, warming tea that never fails to knock out whatever ails me when I take it at the start of a cold or flu! I use one ounce tea to four ounces water for my ten month old. The store can tell you how to make it and how much to use depending on age. Get their tea here.  
  • Vicks Vapor Rub. My mom used this on me and I hated it but I find myself turning to it as an adult - and my kids how well it works.
If illness really catches us, we talk to Kita Centella, owner of Chakra 4, to get stronger herbs or we visit our Naturopath. 

One of my favorite herbalists, Susan Weed, always says, “Herbs are the medicine of the people.” But remember, herbs ARE medicine so use them wisely and in an informed manner. A wise herbalist is a good guide.

As always, info in my blog isn’t intended to replace the medical advice of a trusted health care professional. But, these are the remedies and health building practices that work for our family.

Healthy blessings to you and yours this holiday season!

1. I'm not a fan of juice unless it's freshly squeezed. Concentrated, pasteurized juice does not contain the original nutrients of the fruit and ends up being sugar water. But, if a child won't drink anything but juice, it's better than nothing! Water it down...

2. Remember not to give honey to kids under a year (especially when it's not raw) because of the risk of botulism poison.
3. Tinctures use alcohol to extract the medicinal properties of herbs into a concentrated doses. They come with little tiny droppers so the amount of alcohol to a child is negligible. We usually use 1 drop per 2 pounds of body weight but generally use the advice of a good herbalist in this.

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