Healthy Q & A: Keeping Kids Healthy This Winter

Q:  My son is in kindergarten and has been sick again and again this winter. Is there anything I can give him that’s safe for children but might help him to stay healthy?  He’s missed a bunch of school already and it’s been pretty awful.

A: Schools can be an absolute breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Kids are exposed to so many germs at school, and since they are often touching their mouths and noses, it’s no wonder they get sick so frequently.

There are a number of supplements which are great for adults for boosting the immune system, though it can be more difficult for children, particularly since I’d err on the side of caution with giving many supplements to children. There are several supplements however, which are safe for children to take and can make a big difference in their immune systems.

The first thing I’d recommend is vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for the immune system (and for building strong bones). The body manufactures vitamin D from skin exposure to sunlight, something which doesn’t happen much in the winter. Vitamin D has been researched extensively for its benefits to the immune system. One study found that children who supplemented with excess vitamin D had half as many colds as those who remained deficient in the vitamin. Another study found that it reduced the incidence of the flu when compared with children who did not supplement with the vitamin.

Probiotics are another supplement which are wonderful for the immune system.  Probiotics are the good bacteria found in the intestines.  They are most commonly known for their benefits to digestion, but they can also be very beneficial to the immune system.  One recent study found that school children who took a probiotic along with vitamin C had 33% fewer upper respiratory infections and missed 30% fewer days of school than children who took a placebo. 

The last supplement I’d recommend is elderberry syrup. Elderberry has been researched with impressive results for its antiviral properties, particularly for the flu virus. It can be taken as a preventative measure or for intensive use if a child does get sick. In clinical trial of elderberry syrup, it found that elderberry cured 90% of flu infections after 72 hours.  In the same trial, the patients receiving a placebo needed six days for recovery.

All three of the above mentioned supplements are completely safe for children to use, and are available in chewables, or in the case of elderberry syrup, a great tasting liquid.

One other thing I’d mention are essential oils.  In the past I was rather skeptical about the supposed benefits of essential oils beyond them being nice smelling.  In my research however, I’ve found numerous clinical studies reporting on the legitimate benefits of essential oils.  

There are quite a few essential oils which have very potent antibacterial properties. I would not recommend ingesting essential oils, but rather to use a diffuser to disperse them into the air. Cinnamon, lemongrass, eucalyptus, and tea tree are just a few that have been shown in scientific research to reduce airborne bacteria when diffused into the air. Eucalyptus oil is also great during cold season since it helps to open the sinuses and breathing passages.

We sell essential oils, essential oil diffusers, and all the supplements listed above at Pass Health Foods. Stop by and we’ll help to find the product that’s right for you.