Common cold and influenza are viral infections usually caused by viruses that intrude the nose, throat, sinuses, or ears. The pathogen travels either from hand to mouth and nose, or through the air on minute droplets carrying infected secretions from one person to another. Catching colds can actually be beneficial as it continues to train the immune system to be well tuned and capable of identifying and dealing with viruses. It is important to recognise this and respect the body's own ability to remove viruses and heal. If your child gets sick and gets over it within a couple of days this is usually a sign of a strong immune system - even if your child experiences more intense symptoms such as a fever, vomiting or diarrhoea. This shows that your child's defences are strong and the immune system is working in a timely and efficient manner. On the other hand, if your child gets sick often and takes a long time to get over it, or if a child always seems to be experiencing a low grade cold or flu but rarely spikes a fever this may be a sign of a weaker immune system. Either way there is a lot you can do to support your child's immune system to help minimise the frequency and duration of colds and flu

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Things a parent can do to prevent a child from getting sick this season
  • Let them play in the dirt. Dirt makes you grow. Exposure to dirt and other microbes make our immune systems stronger.
  • Hand washing is the simplest and one of the most effective ways to keep from getting colds or giving them to others.
  • Be sure they are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables of good quality. Avoid overmedication. Avoid overusing antibiotics unless necessary as it compromises gut health. Our gut makes up 70 per cent of our immune system.
  • Let low fevers run their course. A fever is the body's way of fighting infection Bacteria and viruses are picky about the types of temperatures they want to live in. Some short term benefits of fever are that it enables antimicrobial enzymes, decreases microbe reproduction, increases inflammation response. One of the long term benefits of fever are hygiene hypothesis i.e. if kids are exposed young they will be less sick/more resistant when older because cells have seen it before and develop necessary defences child's diet and tools to deal with it. Dirt makes you grow.
  • Ensure adequate elimination. Drink lots of water, make sure your child is having regular bowel movements and good digestion to help the body metabolise and eliminate unwanted toxins and pathogens
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What are the first signs of illness typically?

This is going to be different for every child, the child responds to illness in his/her own way. Often it can start with a shift in their personality. When parents say that their child isn't acting themselves that is usually a sign of illness or imbalance. Physical signs such as a runny nose, mild cough or tummy ache can reveal that illness is coming on but other signs such as fatigue, changes in sleep, mood and behaviour patterns, lack of motivation or desire to do the things the child usually loves to do, and change in appetite can all be the first signs of illness.

What parents should have at hand to respond to the first signs of illness?
  • Temporarily avoid dairy. Most kids love it, so this is a toughie for some. Dairy is mucus forming and adds to dampness in the body. It can have pro-inflammatory effects. So at the first sign of illness a good idea is to temporarily avoid all dairy in your child's diet.
  • Garlic and Onions are some of nature's most powerful antimicrobials. They can be uses in soups if children don't like the taste. Also can make raw onion poultices to help draw out infection. Amazing for ear infections!
  • Vitamin C acts as a potent natural antihistamine, antiviral and antioxidant. Helps balance the way the body reacts to microbes, helps break up mucus and dry up mucus membranes.
  • Steam Inhalation at onset of congestion, daily until resolution. Place boiling water in a bowl, place your head over the bowl and cover head and bowl with a towel. Inhale steam for up to 10 minutes or to tolerance level. This treatment helps to drain congestion from the head and chest.

- (The writer is a homeopath)

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