Making sure your family’s immune systems are strong and healthy can prevent many health problems. In addition to diet and exercise, vitamin supplements and a yearly flu vaccination can boost the immune system naturally and alleviate the need for conventional medications and doctor’s visits.
The human immune system is the body’s natural defense against bacteria, parasites, viruses, and other nasty bugs. From the epidermis, or skin, to the millions of cells beneath it that ward off infections, the body is on guard 24/7.
Prior to birth, babies receive antibodies from their mothers. These antibodies strengthen their immune systems, but only for the first few months of life. Under normal circumstances, as we age our immune systems grow stronger, but many factors can weaken our defenses. A weak immune system may not respond as it should to foreign invasions, like those bugs mentioned earlier. If the bugs break through the lines, then the immune system then has to fight. Puss, tenderness, swelling, phlegm, and mucous are all signs that the body’s defenses are at work, trying to reclaim good health.
So not only is a strong immune system important for warding off sickness, it also fights for the return of wellness when bugs attack. About Colds According to a report by Children’s Medical Center Dallas, “There are many different types of viruses that cause the common cold. In fact, over 200 different varieties of viruses can cause the symptoms of a cold.” Upper Respiratory Infections, otherwise known as colds, are passed through direct contact with an infected person, or through the air from sneezes or coughs.
Children are especially vulnerable to communicable diseases because they tend to touch their faces (mouth, eyes, nose) without thinking, then handle toys or come in direct contact with another child. They may also forget to cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing, neglect washing hands, and not really care if their nose is flowing like the Nile.
When a person contracts a cold, symptoms are evident 1-3 days later. Infants may experience an inability to sleep, fussiness, congestion, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. In addition to these symptoms, older children and adults may also have a scratchy, tickly throat, watery eyes, sneezing, a mild hacking cough, muscle aches, and fatigue. Symptoms differ in adults and children, and vary from person to person, but they normally last about a week.
Because the cold may resemble other medical conditions, consult a physician for a conclusive diagnosis. About Flus Influenza, or the flu, is caused by a virus and is transmitted, usually, through the air. The flu can be spread 1 day prior to symptoms, so it’s a sneaky virus.
Adults can transmit the flu 3-7 days after symptoms begin, and children can transmit it for more than 7 days. Unlike the common cold, the flu can lead to pneumonia and, in most severe cases, death. There are many different strains of flu, and the viral infection generally starts with symptoms such as fever, cough, nasal discharge, headache, muscle aches, chills, fatigue, sore throat, nausea, and loss of appetite, to name a few. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns, “Millions of people in the United States — about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents — will get influenza each year.
An average of about 36,000 people per year in the United States die from influenza, and more than 200,000 have to be admitted to the hospital as a result of influenza.” Boost With The Flu Vaccine “The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each fall,” according to the CDC’s website. Each year, scientists predict which strains of the flu will circulate, and they combine 3 strains to create the flu vaccine. The vaccination is completely natural, and it introduces small amounts of common flu viruses into the body. The immune system responds by defeating the virus. But the immune system has a memory, so once it knows how to defend against a particular virus, you’re at less risk.
You can come in contact with the flu virus and not contract it! Flu vaccines should be administered in October or November because flu season generally runs from October through May. Two variations of the vaccination are available. The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine, which means it contains a dead form of the virus.
Children 6 months or older, people with chronic illnesses, and healthy people can take the flu shot. Side effects include soreness at the injection site, low-grade fever, and aches. Only people in priority groups, as listed on the CDC website, should receive a flu shot prior to October 24th. Currently, a limited amount of the vaccine is available, but the government is working toward changing this in the future. Another version of the vaccine is called LAIV, or Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine. As the name suggests, the vaccine contains live flu viruses. Recipients of this nasal spray version of the flu vaccine should be between the ages of 5 and 49, and should not be pregnant.
There is no priority group recommendation for LAIV, so it is available prior to October 24th. Boost With Supplements Dr. Neustaedter of the Holistic Pediatric Association (http://www.hpakids.org) describes how supplements can boost the immune system in his book, FLU: Alternative Treatments and Prevention (North Atlantic Books, 2005).
This overview will help determine proper dosages and purposes for common supplements. Omega-3 fat supplement: 200 mg of DHA (Neuromins) or one teaspoon of cod liver oil for each 50 pounds of body weight will promote healthy cell membranes, thus preventing inflammation and improving toxin resistance. Vitamin E: 100 mg for children under 2, and 200 mg for children aged 2-12 will help fight inflammation and increase infection resistance.
A mixed tocopherol form of natural, not synthetic, Vitamin E is best for children. Vitamin A: 1 teaspoon of cod liver oil per 50 pounds of body weight will promote healthy mucous membrane function, white blood cells, and T-lymphocytes. Mucosal barrier cells in the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts require Vitamin A. Several studies have also shown that vitamin A supplements during viral illnesses promote rapid recovery and prevent complications. Children can take 1,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin A derived from fish oil without any problem. Zinc: 10-20 mg. per day is sufficient. Zinc can deplete copper, so supplements taken for an extended period of time should be accompanied by copper supplements, in a ratio of ten to one. Zinc stimulates immune function and helps prevent infections.
Vitamin C: 500 mg for children under 3 years old, and 1,000 mg for older children, should be administered. Vitamin C fights inflammation and also has antibiotic properties. During cold and flu season, a daily dose of Vitamin C will benefit the immune system. If your child squirms at taking supplements, Dr. Neustaedter offers a solution. “The easiest way to give supplements to children is through powdered sources mixed in a blender with fruit, fruit juice, yogurt or milk (rice milk for younger children and children with milk sensitivities), and honey (for children over 12 months old).
Capsules can be opened and dumped into the blender. Children can chew oil-based supplements in soft gels, or you can stick a pin into them and squirt out the contents onto something they will eat.” It’s a simple game of hide-in-sweet. Boost With Diet To build a strong immune system in children, begin a healthy diet of breast milk from birth.
As babies grow and begin to eat solid foods, the recipe for a healthy diet becomes similar to that of an adult—balanced. The USDA provides a helpful site, www.mypyramid.gov, which generates a personalized food pyramid and dietary tips based on age, gender, and amount of daily exercise. When planning family meals, keep in mind vegetables and fruits contain the vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the immune system, but grains are also important. Drinking plenty of water hydrates and cleanses the body.
Dr. Timothy Fior, M.D., D.H.T., a holistic medicine doctor at The Center for Integral Health in Lombardi, Illinois, suggests eating organic produce if it’s available. “Organic produce isn’t treated with pesticides and herbicides, so it’s preferable.” He also suggests cutting back on fast foods and junk foods, as well as foods that are processed or high in saturated fats.
Boost With Prevention Asthma, allergy and sinus sufferers should stay indoors, close windows, and try to avoid triggers, according to the FDA. Changing the air filters in your home will help remove pollens and other triggers from your environment. Also change vacuum cleaner bags and filters regularly to reduce germs and triggers. And, of course, do not subject irritated sinus cavities, nasal passages and airways to smoke.
Children’s Medical Center Dallas suggests staying away from a person with a cold. If you or your child contract a cold or the flu, stay home until you’re completely well. Wash hands frequently with soap or an alcohol based hand cleanser. Encourage children to not touch mouths, eyes, or noses, and to cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing.
When children play together, it’s imperative to clean toys and play areas thoroughly.
Benefits of Boosting Many of the benefits from diet, supplements, and communicable disease prevention extend beyond boosting the immune system. A healthy lifestyle wards off colds and flus and helps battle infections, but it also produces increased energy levels and better overall health. Give your family what they need for good health so you can enjoy wellness together.