Keep your family healthy this new school year. Learn all about preventive strategies and natural remedies for common childhood ailments from a naturopathic physician and children’s health expert.
During the crazy back-to-school days of September, families are gearing up for what feels like a new year. Both parents and children alike are adjusting to new schedules, and getting sleep routines and nutrition back in check.
September also marks the onset of cold and flu season and the nervous jitters that come with managing academics, extracurricular activities, and social engagements. But it’s also a great time of year to reboot your family’s health, check in with your health care practitioner, and fill your toolbox with natural remedies to fight off common childhood ailments.
Here are the top four reasons parents bring their school-aged kids to my office during the back-to-school transition, and what I recommend for natural treatments.
The common cold and flu
The best approach to a cold or flu is to prevent it in the first place! Regular hand washing, good nutrition, and restful sleeps are all important factors in maintaining a healthy immune system and warding off cold and flu viruses.
Probiotics and vitamin D
I also recommend a daily probiotic and vitamin D supplement starting in September and continued throughout the fall and winter months. Both probiotics and vitamin D have the ability to regulate immune functions and, when taken consistently, have been shown to decrease the frequency of upper respiratory tract infections.
Echinacea, zinc, vitamin C
If your child catches a cold, start echinacea, zinc, and vitamin C right at the onset of symptoms. The root of Echinacea purpurea may help lessen symptom severity, while zinc and vitamin C may help shorten the duration of illness.
Black elderberry may also help reduce cold duration and symptom severity, but is better known for its flu-fighting capabilities.
When to see your doctor for a cold or flu
- difficulty breathing
- difficulty keeping food or fluids down
- difficulties swallowing
- fever higher than 100 F (38 C) lasting more than three days
- cough or nasal congestion that doesn’t improve or worsens over the course of 14 days
Also called acute otitis media (AOM), ear infections are often secondary to an upper respiratory infection. So, to prevent ear infections, follow the guidelines for cold and flu management.
AOM can be viral or bacterial in nature, and mild cases often resolve without antibiotics with time, patience, and the appropriate supportive therapies.
Garlic and mullein
The classic supportive herbal remedy for ear infections is garlic mullein ear oil. Garlic is both antibacterial and antiviral in nature, while mullein is a natural analgesic and helps to soothe ear pain.
Do not put anything in the ear if the eardrum is ruptured or if there’s drainage from the ear. In cases where ear pain does not resolve or improve in 48 hours, antibiotics may be needed.
When to see your doctor for earaches
- ear pain lasting longer than 48 hours
- fever of 102 F (39 C) or higher
- rapid onset of symptoms
- severe ear pain
- drainage from the ear
Constipation is an incredibly common problem, affecting up to 30 percent of children. Interestingly, the start of school is one of the most common times in a child’s life when constipation becomes an issue. Luckily, there are many natural remedies to help your child regain digestive regularity.
First and foremost, it’s important to increase water consumption and dietary fibre intake.
It’s also crucial to support your child’s microbiome. In fact, regular probiotic supplementation has been shown to increase stool frequency.
For stubborn cases, I also recommend magnesium citrate supplementation and food allergy testing, as well as herbal digestive relaxant teas, such as camomile and peppermint, to soothe abdominal discomfort. >>
When to see your doctor for constipation
- blood in stool
- constipation worsens or lasts more than a week
It’s not uncommon to see sleep issues arise at the onset of a new school year while your little one is adjusting to a new schedule.
To promote restful sleeps, it’s important to have a consistent bedtime routine that incorporates relaxing activities such as reading a book or having a warm bath.
Lemon balm and valerian root
For some children who have persistent sleep issues, I recommend a kid-friendly nervous-system-relaxing tea that contains lemon balm and valerian root.
Melatonin can also be used in children with chronic insomnia with the guidance of your health care practitioner.
When to see your doctor for sleep issues
- wetting the bed (uncharacteristically)
- night terrors