Oh the joys of snot season.
If only your kids could get through it unscathed, just once! If it’s not your kids it will be you. The misery of runny noses, coughs and phlegm often passes from the playground to parents, even the healthiest and hardiest, and you end up in a nightmare of trying to look after your little ones while barely being able to look after yourself.
But this year it’s going to be different! We’re going to give you the goods on how to boost your children’s immunity as well as your own so that:
- a) you have a damn good chance of not getting sick in the first place, or
- b) if you do get sick, you get through it much more quickly than usual.
The Red Tent 5-step prevention plan for cold and flu is the smartest and most natural approach to defence against those nasty germs and viruses that are so prevalent at this time of year. The sooner you start implementing this plan, the stronger you and your family will be this winter.
There’s nothing complicated or expensive involved. In fact, bolstering your immunity now will SAVE you a ton of money that you’d otherwise spend on medicine, doctor’s visits and extra babysitting or time off work if your child is school-aged and needs to stay home.
It’s not good to never be sick, but it’s so much worse for everyone when it goes on and on, or when it doesn’t fully go away then comes back.
If you’re going to catch a cold it’s best to get it, fight hard and then be done with it. We don’t want to see snot trails lasting all winter. That doesn’t help anyone.
The Red Tent 5-Step Prevention Plan for Cold and Flu in Kids and Parents
Step 1 – Chicken broth every other day keeps the doctor away.
You might think this is something that Nannas say, but chicken soup is actually very healing for the gut. Your gut has 70% of your immune system in there so let’s help it a little. The bones from the chicken carcass contain minerals and healing properties which leach out during slow-cooking and they are just marvellous for your gut.
After over ten years in clinic, I’ve seen time and time again, firsthand, that all the things that Chinese medicine teaches about how to improve the digestion and your immunity have turned out to be true. What can I say? It just works.
In Chinese medical terms, chicken broth is just the best for your Spleen and Stomach. You can eat it as is or put it in porridge in the morning for a savoury option or use it as a base for congee. If chicken isn’t your thing, you can also try vego broths. They’re not as healing for the gut but they sure do taste good.
During times of sickness, give homemade (or good-quality store-bought) chicken broth to your kids every day – and eat it yourself too! Get your recipe right here:
Step 2 – Probiotics are your best friend.
Are you giving your kids a daily probiotic? If not, start there. This is not a gimmick and not only for times of sickness – consistently helping your kids have a good population of healthy, good gut bacteria will see them through so many potential illnesses, now and into their future.
If anyone in the family gets so much as a sniffle, increase everyone’s daily probiotic dose, whether it’s in tablet form, powder form or food form. You’ll need a lot of these powerful little positive bacteria to do the trick.
Practitioner-strength brands like Bioceuticals and Metagenics are trustworthy as they guarantee that if consumed by the use-by date your probiotics will contain the specified amount of live bacteria. These brands conduct rigorous testing to ensure their quality, so you’ll pay more for them but it’s worth it.
Probiotic-rich foods to increase at this time include kefir milk (I use organic milk to make mine and I don’t sweeten it – this is tougher to give to kids but I sneak it into a healthy smoothie), sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. The amount you and your kids need will vary and will depend on your antibiotic history. The more antibiotics you’ve had in the past, the higher the dose of probiotics you will need. Ask your practitioner for specifics.
Step 3 – Green veggies are the bomb.
I tell my kids constantly, “I didn’t make up the rules, all I know is that your body needs green veggies and lots of them to make it work the best for you.”
After YEARS of reinforcing this, my kids are pretty awesome at eating their green veg – but it wasn’t always so. We did fall off the track now and then but just got back on.
I bring out greens at breakfast – yes you heard right. I figure if I can get some in at the start of the day I’m ahead. Lunch is often at school and devoid of greens – I don’t even bother stressing about getting greens in for school lunches. Then bring on dinner. When you serve greens for dinner quite consistently, they get used to it and even develop a taste for them.
Why green veg? The colour green helps the liver to function well and helps energy or Qi to flow better. It also gives food to all those good bacteria in your gut. It’s so important to nurture those good guys and feed them well so they can grow and reproduce. A diet high in greens = a gut full of healthy bacteria, as opposed to the bad guys who eat things like sugar. Look after your good bacteria so they can take care of you when you’re sick.
Step 4 – Don’t let the phlegm take hold.
Blocked sinuses are no fun. If you’re an adult, you can use a neti pot. It’s an ancient Indian tradition that I’ve borrowed and use regularly when our family have colds, hayfever or sinusitis.
We have a couple of neti pots at home – they are amazing for literally clearing phlegm out of your sinuses and nose. If your child is around 8 or older and they’ve seen you using a neti pot, then you could try it for them too. If your kids are littler then try Fess, which is a non-medicated saline nasal spray. The neti pot is better though as the salt water solution goes in one nostril and out the other.
You can see a clip of me using a neti pot right here. The only change I’d make to what I say in this video is to use boiled water and wait for it to cool down.
We sell Australian hand-made neti pots at Red Tent that are pretty cool – so if you’re a Sydney local you can get one at our clinic or order online and we’ll send it by post.
Step 5 – Eat lots of these foods with powerful immunity-boosting properties.
Garlic, ginger, spring onions, salt, apple cider vinegar and honey. Not all together! These foods are impressive when it comes to helping you to battle the business of the dreaded cold.
- Garlic: anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial – need I say more? Put loads of garlic in your cooking whilst you’re unwell or also as a preventer when you’re not sick. If you really want to pack a punch – now this is more for adults – slice thin pieces and put between pieces of apple and eat – that really sets an immune booster bomb off. It’s awesome.
- Ginger: warming for your digestive system, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory. Ginger tastes great when thin slices of it are put in boiling water with some honey. Make sure it’s cooled down a fair bit before giving it to your little ones, or you can drink it hot.
- Spring onions: brilliant to put in soups, especially a clear chicken broth as they help keep the ‘wind’ away. In Chinese medicine the wind is said to be “the spearhead of the hundred diseases.” The wind brings with it viruses and many other pathogens –eating shallots (ie long green onions) is said to help them not penetrate.
- Salt: where would we be without it? I love salt to gargle with and so do my kids – it really helps with a sore throat. If your kids are younger than five then gargling with salt would be too hard but otherwise it’s a winner. It’s also an essential ingredient for the neti pot.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: this stuff is the best for improving your enzyme activity which will increase your absorption of nutrients from your food. I take ACV a lot myself: 1 teaspoon with some water before as many meals as I can. I haven’t tried to give it to the kids yet as it has quite a strong taste but if you want to try it out with your kids, just start with a tiny amount diluted in water. I always buy an organic version of ACV, usually Braggs. Not only does it help to improve your enzyme activity, it can also thin mucus and is great to gargle with to ward off a sore throat (if using as a gargle, the ratio of vinegar to water should be more like 1:1).
This 5-step prevention plan for cold and flu should get you started with an effective defence toolkit for this snot season. If your child gets sick regularly and can’t seem to flick the sick, then that’s something you need to look into more deeply.
A comprehensive health plan helps a lot. At Red Tent we work with parents and children regularly to sort these kinds of issues out, often in close consultation with their GP. We also offer a home study program for mums that teaches you how to create a robust health plan for your kids and empowers you to treat them at home with natural methods, diet, herbs and Chinese medical wisdom. If that sounds like something you’d like to learn, find out more about The A–Z of Home Remedies for Children’s Health here.
If you have any questions about treating a child who often gets sick, write to me in the comments below!