Children and Colds and Flu

My son started preschool and a week and half later our entire house was hit with a nasty cold.  We first became aware of it when my oldest son awoke from his sleep screaming in pain from a severe, raw throat.  My baby then took a turn next and we soon followed. My version of the cold came with a nasty headache.  Between the cries and discomfort of our children and the raging pain in my head we didn’t get much sleep and generally felt lousy. 

What did I do wrong? As a natural health practitioner I should know better.  I felt like I let our family down.  When I spoke to his preschool teacher she just brushed it off with a, “Yes, every September and January kids get a cold”  “It’s all the new germs they get introduced to”.  Well that may be so but my husband and I both missed work and my son missed a day of preschool.  Stopping our lives to heal a nasty infection is not very productive or useful when we run our own business. I was determined to avoid this problem again!

I put on my thinking cap and resolved to ensure that this winter we would not succumb to a cold again! I made the following list:

A) Wash hands:  I am now becoming paranoid of “germs” and feel strongly that my son should wash his hands before he leaves preschool and when we get home. A simple yet effective step.

B) Healthy food:  I make it a rule to minimize my son’s exposure to refined sugar and packaged foods.  Why? Because bacteria and viruses love to proliferate in a weakened environment and refined sugars and packaged foods do not provide the necessary nutrients a child needs to fight these infections.  I would extend that restriction to juice as well.  Juice is just sugar.  If your child needs fruit cut up slices of real fruit.

Part of healthy eating is also about eating together (even though they like to run around while they eat no matter how hard you try to stop them!).  Teaching your child to sit quietly at the table with his or her family is another great way to not only ensure tight family bonds but to also allow his or her digestive system to properly absorb the nutrients from the healthy food that you are giving to them.

C) Reduce overstimulation: TV and video games over stimulate our children’s nervous systems. Children need to play in a quiet environment without outside noise and constant entertainment.  Allow a ½ hour a day of either tv or video games but try to limit it to that. According to Chinese medicine, this overstimulation can create “heat” in their bodies which drains their adrenals glands.  Children then become restless and agitated and their immune systems become compromised. 

Another form of stress is over booking extra curricular activities.  Think about all of the after school activities that your child is engaged in.  Do they need to be doing all of them? Do you feel like you are running around from one activity to the next without time for other, more relaxed family time?

D) Exercise:  While it is important to monitor how much stimulation your child is exposed to it is also important to encourage your child to be active in a balanced way.  Organized sports are great but so are activities that you can all do together.  I once met a family that all took martial arts classes together. By doing some of their sporting activities together you are not only bonding but also teaching them the importance of exercise by example.  Exercise is a great way to keep the immune system strong.  The problems come when a child is attending sporting events with a bad cold which can only prolong the cold further.  I have seen some nasty chest infections turn into pneumonia when children continue activities through an illness.

Of course, these steps are great to prevent illness but sometimes life gets in the way and we need help.  I find that the following Chinese herbs help me and my family to fight infections both at the early-“mommy I have a sore throat” stage to the late stage of congestion and your basic misery. Honey suckle flower, forsythia fruit and woad root all detoxify “fire poison” or bacterial/viral infections and help “cool” the body by acting as a natural anti-inflammatory. If my little ones have a bad cough then mulberry leaf, chrysanthemum and mint can stop the spasms and heal the infection from the chest.

Lastly and perhaps the most important element is; take it slow and rest the body.

Mikiala Christie is a Registered Acupuncturist (RAc)and Registered Chinese herbalist (R.TCM.P) and may be reached at: 250-656-2067 or her website: