How to Prevent Illness Before it Hits Home

How to Prevent Illness Before it Hits Home

Autumn has arrived. Kids are back in school and most parents know that this means more colds and flu-likely for everyone in the household as the germs spread from person to person. So just how do we arm our children with the best means to protect themselves from these pesky germs? The key to keeping kids healthy now that they are back in the classroom is to bolster their immune systems. By rebalancing their immune systems to a normal and natural state, they will be more likely to fight off any pesky invaders they come in contact with, and less likely to bring illness back home.

Germs spread quickly and easily in classrooms because kids tend to touch each other and communal objects-toys, balls and desks-often, and then bring their hands back to facial openings such as their mouth, nose and eyes. If germs are present, this is how they enter the body. The first line of defense is teaching children to avoid hand-to-face contact. This may work with older children who tend to be somewhat less spontaneous, but with younger ones this is not always practical.

Read more about the germiest surfaces

According to naturopathic physician Dr. Dick Thom, there are a number of key steps that should be implemented to keep kids at their peak health. One of the primary considerations is to eliminate any food allergies or sensitivities that the child may have, since they continuously put stress on the immune system without parents or the child even being aware this is happening. The most commonly undetected sensitivities are to foods such as dairy, wheat, corn, soy and even fruits such as oranges.

To help support a strong immune system, children should regularly consume a fish oil supplement. Dr. Thom recommends the use of quality cod liver oil, as it contains both the essential fatty acids (Omega-3 fatty acids) and vitamin D, which research is showing most North American children are deficient in. Vitamin D is a key player in immunity. Probiotics, or good bacteria, are also vital to the body's ability to protect itself. These beneficial bacteria help to fight infection by stimulating the body's ability to create antibodies-our defense against harmful bacteria and viruses. Probiotics can be found in specific cultured and fermented foods, including some yogurts, as well as in supplement form.

In terms of lifestyle, sleep is often an undervalued need. A large number of today's children are not sleeping properly and thus are not able to give their bodies the time and rest they need to fully recuperate. Adding insult to injury, they often wake up late and then skip breakfast, later turning to sugary foods to give them an artificial energy boost. Dr. Thom explains this extra sugar encourages hypoglycemic reactions in the body, which further weakens immunity. Regular exercise also helps. Exercise stimulates the movement of lymph fluid in the body. Lymph fluid contains lymphocytes-vital white blood cells that fight illness-causing pathogens-making it an active part of the immune system. Cardio exercise of any kind keeps lymph circulating, enabling the immune system to perform better.

When your child does fall ill, Dr. Thom believes the best remedy is to support your child's body in its quest to heal itself. That means lots of rest, liquids such as water and homemade soup, and if desired, Epsom salt baths. "The best is to not to give children anything, especially something to lower a fever," says Dr. Thom. "A fever is the best defense the body has to fight infections. Everyone worries about febrile seizures but research shows they are not a problem."

Read more about over-the-counter fever reducer medications

By following some of these sensible and effective strategies for keeping your child healthy, you can take some of the stress out of the changes a new season brings. Not only will these strategies mean your child stays healthy and happy, it means less illness bought back into the the home, disrupting the lives of the rest of the family. Really, these strategies are be beneficial to all members of the family, too. And as we all know, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

Image: Lotus Carroll

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Lilian is a registered holistic nutritionist who has worked in the nutrition and corporate wellness fields for the over a decade. She teaches pediatric nutrition, delivers corporate and public nutrition seminars, runs a weight-loss program, does one-on-one nutritional counseling and writes on nutrition and wellness topics. Since having her son Noa, Lilian has taken a keen interest in educating mom’s to be and new parents about proper nutrition during these special periods. Lilian has been featured in Elle Magazine, Flare, Today’s Bride and The Weekly Scoop, MSN/Sympatico’s Weight Loss Challenge and appeared on City TV.