How to prevent your littlies (and yourself!) from getting a bug – and what to do if one has already settled in
For a number of years during Winter, when my nieces and nephews were younger, it was predictable that someone in the family would be sick at any given time. An endless relay of passing the bug from one family member to the next, to the next, and so on for the duration of the season. By Spring, everyone was exhausted and crossing their fingers and toes that it would all be over soon. Even these days it’s still palpable to feel the apprehension as Winter nears… How will this year pan out? How are the kids going to go? Will I need to take much time off work?
Of course you can’t completely protect your kids from germs and they will of course get sick from time to time. But there are a few things you can keep in mind throughout this season to help prevent bugs from weighing your family down:
- Good immunity starts in the gut. In Chinese Medicine children’s digestive systems are said to be weak until they reach adulthood. And that having a strong, healthy gut is foundational to having a strong healthy child (or adult for that matter). What does it mean practically to strengthen the gut? It means ensuring that your child has a good, nutrient dense, wholefood diet. A diet that includes a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains as well as prebiotic foods such as fermented foods and yoghurt that will help provide them with good gut bacteria such as bifidus and acidophilus.
- Paediatric massage. Massage is such a beautiful thing to do with your child regardless of whether they are sick or not. But apart from it’s bonding benefits, there are particular techniques that can help to boost the body’s immune system and help keep your child strong (especially good before bed). When your child comes in for an appointment, your practitioner can show you how you can do this. It doesn’t take long and you’ll be surprised how much your child will love it. Here’s a link to get you started in the meantime.
- Onions… Yep, onions. As crazy as it may sound, onions have incredible properties that can not just ward off nasty infections but can also help to heal. Check out this article for more info on the weird and wonderful things an onion can do for your child (and yourself)
When they do get sick, what can you do? I know most parents are pretty keen to stay away from antibiotics whenever possible. Should you start stocking up on the lemons, honey and ginger and pipe them an endless supply of homemade tea?
Ah, that’s where it gets interesting.
In Chinese Medicine a sniffly nose is not just a sniffly nose, a cough not just a cough.
Chinese Medicine sees disharmonies in the body through a different lens. People may have the same symptom but through further investigation it becomes clear that it is not at all the same thing. The same symptoms can be caused by heat or cold, dampness or phlegm, and each will need a different treatment to ensure the body gets back to its proper balance.
So outside of seeing a practitioner, what can you do at home?
- Stop the dairy upon first signs of sickness, unless of course you are breast or bottle feeding. Dairy in Chinese Medicine is seen as a phlegm producing food and regardless of which of the elements are causing the sickness, dairy is likely to exacerbate the symptoms.
- Stay away from cold foods and drinks as much as possible. The Spleen system in Chinese Medicine (roughly synonymous to the digestive system) likes things to be warm and cooked. Food or drink straight from the fridge acts as a shock to this system. When things are already compromised due to any form of illness, acute or chronic, it takes a toll on the digestive system. Giving the Spleen system a break, will help get your child back on their feet faster.
- Back to the homemade tea. The antibacterial nature of honey (good quality only) and astringent nature of lemon are still great for sore throats and coughs. But unless you’re sure that your child falls more in the cold causal category, keep the ginger to a minimum. Ginger as a herb in Chinese Medicine has a very warming effect and if your child has more heat in their system it could prolong their symptoms.
- And of course as you all know, ensure the fluids are in abundance and that there is enough rest and good quality sleep so the body can heal.
Here’s to a flu-free, sleep abundant Winter for your whole family!
Authored by Robin Arora,
Chinese herbalist & acupuncturist
Passionate about children’s health