Currently, the CDC and public health officials are recommending that all children ages 6 months to 18 years receive the H1N1 vaccine. Many parents are skeptical of this recommendation and others are frustrated by the lack of availability of the vaccine in some areas. If your child has not been vaccinated for whatever reason, and you are concerned about preventing the H1N1 infection (assuming your child has not already battled this flu), you will be pleased to know that there are things you can do to boost your child’s immune system.
1) Vitamin D3: most people in the U.S. are Vitamin D deficient. Even those that live in sunnier states may not be getting adequate sun exposure to make Vitamin D, especially if they wear sunscreen or cover most of their bodies while out in the sun. In the winter, most adults need an additional 5,000-10,000 IU/day. Children over 12 can safely take up to 5,000IU/day in the winter and under 12, you should talk to a Naturopath or Pharmacist about safe dosing. The American Academy of Pediatrics made a recommendation that all infants be supplemented with 400 IU of Vitamin D3 daily just to prevent Rickets (sever D deficiency). Why do we need extra D3? Researchers who studied the 1918 flu Pandemic discovered a clear correlation between geographical areas hit hardest by the Spanish Flu and those prone to Vitamin D deficiency. Further studies have shown that most people who are severely infected or wind up with complications from the flu are also Vitamin D deficient while people with mild illness or who manage to stay healthy are more likely to have adequate levels of Vitamin D. Some believe that Vitamin D deficiency may be part of the reason for the seasonality of influenza and other respiratory infections.
2) Probiotics: Those little bacteria that live in your gut do more than just help you digest your food. They actually make up an important part of your immune system! There have been several studies showing the benefits of probiotic supplementation and decreased risk of cold and flu infections as well as decreased severity of symptoms among those who do become infected. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidusare 2 of the bugs frequently sited in these studies. In order to get the benefits of these bacteria, you will need to do more than just eat yogurt. I recommend supplementing with the equivalent of 8-16 billion organisms a day. These should generally be kept refrigerated to maintain maximum potency. Even infants can safely take probiotics–you should ask your Naturopath for a recommendation since infant formulations are slightly different than those for older children and adults.
3) Sleep: most of us don’t get enough of it. Chances are if you have kids in school or have to wake them up to get them to childcare, they are not getting enough sleep. Even teenagers require more sleep than most adults and often lead busier lives. Encouraging reasonable, age-appropriate bed times and allowing kids to sleep in when the schedule permits is the best way to ensure they have the energy reserves to fight off infections. It is especially important that children and adults who are coming down with something (even if they have no overt symptoms) be allowed to sleep or rest as much as possible. Often, this will prevent them from developing further symptoms. It will also keep them from exposing other people to their germs!
4) Hydrotherapy: your kids are sick and you’re not sure what to do to make them comfortable. Rather than dragging them out to the store to get over the counter medicines, try some old fashioned home treatments–moist heat packs or a hot water bottle over the chest can help increase circulation and oxygenation of blood and may be especially helpful for kids with a cough or who are prone to asthma. The wet sock treatment is another easy home treatment that is especially effective in children and infants with upper respiratory infections. Simply apply a pair of cold wet (wrung out) cotton socks and cover with wool or fleece. Allow the socks to stay on the child’s feet for 30-45 minutes. This may be done in conjunction with a warm compress to the chest and seems to be easiest to do in the evenings. It is not unusual for children to spike a fever during or shortly after this treatment. The fever is a sign that the immune system has been stimulated and is doing its job. Of course, offering fluids if your child has a fever is also a good idea to prevent dehydration. You should talk to a doctor or pharmacist about the best oral hydration for your sick child (since they may require more than just plain water).
If you have specific questions about what is best for your child, you should consult with a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor. Information contained in this blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition or replace a visit with a qualified Healthcare Provider and should be used at the discretion of the reader.