Catching a cold is an annoying fact of life–most adults will call in sick to work about three times a year thanks to some sort of bug. But kids? These (adorable and lovable) walking cesspools of disease clock in at about eight colds a year, and that adds up fast during the school year.
Almost 22 million school days are lost (about three days a year, for most kids) due to illness, and back-to-school is prime time for cold and flu viruses. As soon as one person feels a tickle in their throat, it's just a matter of time before everyone in your household is sitting in bed, sipping on soup and blowing through boxes of tissues with abandon. Stop the mini-epidemic before it strikes—and save yourself and the kids a lot of misery—by strengthening the whole family's immune systems with all-natural remedies and strategies that really work.
More than 75 percent of the honey stocked in your grocery store is technically a honey product, not actual honey. Stripped of the antibacterial and nutrient dense pollen, these honey imposters are basically just high fructose corn syrup. Sweeten your food with manuka honey instead, and reap the antibacterial, antiviral, and medicinal benefits of this raw honey.
Manuka honey is loaded with amino acids, B vitamins, zinc, and potassium–these elements alone make honey a great immunity booster, but researchers have isolated a special element in manuka honey that makes it even more antibiotic than most honey products.
This is one old wives tale that's really true. You hear all the time about how vitamin C can benefit your immune system, and study after study shows that tried and true vitamin C and zinc are two of the most powerful supplements to fight against illness. Kids between four and eight years old need about 25 grams per day, while nine- to 13-year-olds need almost double that amount (45 grams a day). An average glass of organic orange juice should do the trick, clocking in at around 65 grams of vitamin C for an eight ounce glass.
Want to get the health benefits of vitamin C without the added sugar of a glass of OJ? Make a healthy pizza for dinner—one tablespoon of tomato paste yields 6 grams of vitamin C, and if you top your pizza with bell peppers, spinach, or kale, you’ll ensure your kid hits their daily value of super C.
Elderberry is a traditional botanical medicinal that’s been used for years to help respiratory function and support the immune system. Because of its high antioxidant content—quercitin and rutin give elderberry its color and are known for their respiratory benefits—this little berry can help your kiddos fight off whatever weird bug they’re exposed to in the classroom. Try it in an elderberry syrup.
Essential oils in the air
An all-natural air freshener and air-borne illness zapper? Eucalyptus and tea tree oil work overtime in this aromatic home scent that can keep the cold and flu at bay. Simply add these two essential oils into your diffuser for a quick and fresh way to kill germs.
Up the ante on nap time
When kids go back to daycare or school, oftentimes their regular sleep schedule is seriously interrupted. No nap time, or at least limited nap time, can result in a cranky kid with an immune deficiency. Lack of sleep can mess with your child’s natural immune system, so they won’t be as resilient and able to fight off germs as easily as they normally would.
Toddlers need 12 to 14 hours of sleep, preschoolers need 11 to 12, and school-aged children need 10 to 11 hours of shut eye a night. Whether you need to send your kid to bed sooner or you throw in a power nap after school, make sure you’re giving your kid ample opportunity to snooze.
Cut back on the sugar
Sugar coated cereal isn’t just throwing off your child’s mood, metabolism, and brain function—it’s also wreaking havoc on your kid’s white blood cells. Just 100 grams of sugar (the amount in about two cans of soda) can reduce white blood cells’ ability to fight germs by more than 40 percent. Cut the sugar as soon as your little one shows signs of a bug, and do what you can to keep sugary foods and drinks to a minimum during cold and flu season.
Sniffles and coughs are inevitable when you have little ones, but keep sick days at bay (and your kids in school!) with these immune boosting tips.
Illustration by Foley Wu