We're already one month into the time of year when kids make the grand return to school, one-grade-the-wiser. They re-unite with friends, draw pictures about their summer vacations and carry oversized backpacks full of PTA newsletters, uneaten lunches and schoolyard treasures. It is the unofficial "New Year", with a fresh start for parents and tots alike. Back-to-school...back to routine...and also...
back to "Germ Central".
Yes, I said it. If your kid hasn't gotten sick yet, count yourself LUCKY!
In my house, we barely dodged a viral infection that was akin to the plague...fell face-first into kindergarten-strength Pink Eye, and my better half was felled with a fever for 4 days! All this after only 1 week back to school...
So. For those of you with similar tales, we are going to COME BACK STRONG!
I've compiled a list of tips that will be your battle armour for the immune system...a way to head forward into Autumn, adorned with ways to outsmart and outlast the germs that will, inevitably, follow your children home from the germ factory.
1. HAND WASHING
If I've said it before, I'll say it again: Let's all wash our hands! As soon as we walk in the door from our day, before we eat, after we pet the dog mid snack-break...
Get yourself and your kids into this habit. Use soap that isn't some sort of extra-strength-anti-bacterial-ultra-kill-all chemical, but just some good ol' fashioned soap. Lather up for 15 seconds if you're a grown-up, and as for the kids...just try your darndest to get them into the habit, any way you can.
You've probably heard about these a million times by now, the reason being: THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT! We have A LOT of bacteria in our bodies, which is a naturally-occurring, completely normal situation. Problems arise when the fine balance of one bacteria to the others occurs, ie. one gets a "leg up". To prevent this, we like to equip ourselves with lots of the immune-supporting bacteria in our gut. Its functions (such as helping build mucous that prevents attachment of bacteria to the intestinal wall..competing for space in the gut, essentially "crowding out" harmful bacteria and fungi...neutralizing toxins that are spewed out by harmful bugs) are key to a healthy immune system - both by preventing disease and helping to aid recovery after a nasty flu or round of antibiotics.
Where do we get probiotics?!
Yogurt. Kefir. Sourkraut. Kombucha. Miso. Tempeh. Fermented foods!
Also available as a supplement, which I suggest for all my patients. Talk to a Naturopathic Doctor about the best options, as there are many brands on the market, and they are NOT created equal!
3. IMMUNE SUPPORT
Again, this is where a licensed Naturopathic Doctor is your best resource for ideas about how to support your family's immune health. It's normal for school-age kids to get sick 5-6X/year, but if they continually get the same ear infection, or if they never quite recover from a cold, it's time to look into some additional options. There are some great-tasting herbal remedies that kids can take to get their immune health back on track. And this goes for you, too!
4. NOURISHING MEALS
Yes, it takes more time to cook from scratch than it does to throw some frozen fish sticks in the oven. But if the pay-back comes in the time you WON'T have to spend at home with your kids on multiple sick days, then that bit of time each day is definitely worth it.
Best bets for Autumn: Soups, stews, root vegetables, slow-cooked grains and lentils
As the temperature drops outside, our bodies want warming, hearty meals to support the hard work they are doing to stay warm and ward off the germ invaders. Summertime called for salads and raw fruits, but the times they are a' changin'. Pull out your slow cooker, update your old family recipe for Shepherd's pie with some extra veg, and your immune systems will thank you.
One of my fave lentil soup recipes here: http://www.chow.com/recipes/11366-french-lentil-soup-with-tarragon-and-thyme
5. WARMING SOCKS
If you haven't heard the latest craze sweeping the (Naturopathic paediatric) nation...this is it! Great for kids big and small, this is one amazing way to help your immune system do its thing when times get tough. It sounds weird, but trust me, kids love it! And it works!
At bedtime...Wet a pair of thin socks with lukewarm water. Ring out well. Place damp-ish socks on feet. Place another pair of dry, bigger, fluffier, cozier, warmer socks over top. Bundle up in blankets and sleep for the night...In the morning the socks will be dry, and symptoms of fever, nose running, head congestion, cough, etc will be reduced! Repeat every night until symptoms are gone.
Now get out there and enjoy Autumn!