This is a 3 part series discussing children’s immune systems; the wisdom of fevers; and common homeopathic remedies for children.
Part 1 – Children’s Immune Systems
From birth until age 5 children are busy building their immune systems. At birth, infants are mainly protected by their mother’s immune system, and this protection continues until 6 months of age if they are breastfed. These early years are crucial in developing a strong, resilient immune system. The immune system develops by being exposed to antigens (irritants to the body) and then producing antibodies and cell responses to contain the irritants and remove them from the body. We continue to develop and refine our immune systems throughout our entire lives, but this early development sets the tone for one’s lifelong health. As new viruses emerge and old viruses return to visit us again, we are offered new opportunities to respond to these antigens and develop antibodies to deal with them. To maintain health we must continually respond to new antigens and mount a full immune response to them.
Building Blocks to a Healthy Immune System
1. Good nutrition – keep the diet balanced with as much fresh, live food as much as possible. Living in California, we have access to fresh vegetables and fruit year round. Enjoy the bounty of what nature provides; look for a variety of colorful foods and include them into each meal. Different colors provide different vitamins and minerals.
Also include probiotics found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, that contain the good flora and fauna for our digestive tract and immune system. Other probiotic rich foods include miso soup, sauerkraut, Kim Chee, kefir, buttermilk.
Avoid excess sugar including more than 8oz of juice daily. Sugar suppresses the immune system.
Limit cow’s milk products as these are congestion forming; many people do not digest and assimilate cow’s milk products well.
2. Fresh air and sunshine
3. Stay active, play, and laugh
4. Take time to rest and relax
5. Make good sleep a routine; establish bedtime rituals that calm your children and move them toward sleep.
Runny Noses and Coughs – Oh My!
The body first tries to get rid of infections by getting them out of the body in the form of runny noses, coughs, sneezes, vomiting or diarrhea. So when you first see your child sneezing or blowing her nose, do not think about stopping this process! The body is wise; it is trying to get the infectious material out. We are often repelled by the sight of runny noses and colorful phlegm (our intuitive protective response to maintain our health) so we try to get rid of them as fast as possible by suppressing these symptoms. We often do not realize that we are inhibiting the function of the immune system as we do so.
Instead, consider how to promote this waste removal process. Give children plenty of fluids: water is best but diluted vegetable or fruit juices in small amounts can also be fine. Herbal teas such as Traditional Medicinal teas can also be beneficial. Do not start the Pedialyte here! Look at ingredients; this is not a health food that will fuel the body’s immune system.
Put your child into the bath or do a steam inhalation (safely) or a steamy shower. Use 2-3 drops of essential oils to support the discharge process. Peppermint, eucalyptus, and lemon essential oils are all beneficial for upper respiratory infections; take care not to burn your child with the oils. Let your child rest and give them plenty of tissue to wipe their noses and wash hands often. If your child is too young to wipe his nose, use a bulb syringe to clear out the mucus. Many parents balk at the thought of sucking out nasal congestion with a bulb syringe from their child’s nose, but I have seen it time and time again shorten the course of an upper respiratory illness. Remember you are the parent and your attitude counts, so make it a game and get that congestion out of there!