6 Child-Friendly Ways to Prevent Colds and Flu 

MaureenSBy Maureen Sangiorgio

When you’re a parent, you worry about your children . . . a lot . . . forever. Are they happy? Are they healthy? Are they safe? Am I doing all I can to keep them happy, healthy, and safe?

Most parents are no strangers to dealing with their children’s illnesses. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, your child probably will have more colds, or upper respiratory infections, than any other illness. Up until age two, most kids have about ten colds! And if your child is in day care, or if there are other kids in your house, she may have even more, since colds spread easily among children who are in close contact with one another.

Influenza (“the flu”) is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Kids often need medical care because of the flu, especially if they are younger than five years old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year about 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications.

Follow this six-step program to boost your child’s immunity and to help prevent colds and flu in your family.

Get a dog. Babies who are born into a home with dogs are less likely to develop an upper respiratory infection, according to a recent study in Pediatrics. The researchers concluded that the children in the study who lived with dogs were healthier and had fewer respiratory and ear infections. They also didn’t need as many antibiotics as children in the study who didn’t live with dogs. Researchers suspect dogs bring in foreign pathogens that help boost the children’s immune system.

Start ‘em young. Teach your child to wash her hands often during the day, especially if she is in school or day care. This will greatly reduce the spread of the cold virus. If your child does have a cold, to prevent it spreading to other children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends coughing or sneezing in a tissue or handkerchief instead of placing of hands over the mouth. If the virus ends up on the hands, it can be transmitted to whatever is touched, such as other children, friends, or toys.

Keep sanitizer handy. According to the CDC, washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs. But if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  Keep sanitizers in every room in your house, in the garage, the backyard, in your car, and in your handbag.

Name that smoothie. We all know that the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E can help boost the immune system. The best way to get these vitamins in your kids’ little bodies is by feeding them a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. But what if your kids balk at broccoli? Break out the blender and swirl together the following ingredients to whip up an immune-boosting smoothie: milk or yogurt, strawberries, bananas, and papaya. Children love to name their creations, so ask your kids to come up with a fun, individualized name for their special drink.

Ask about elderberry. Talk to your pediatrician about children’s formulas of elderberry supplements, syrups, or tincture. These small, dark berries have been used as a folk remedy for colds, coughs, flu, fevers, sinus problems, and skin swelling, in Europe and the United States, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

A study was recently published in Nutrients that followed air travelers for two years. One group was given a proprietary elderberry formula, and the other group took a placebo. If participants in either group contracted a cold, those who took the elderberry formula were sick for only 5 days, versus 7 days in the placebo group. The elderberry group also reported far less severe symptoms, and experienced better overall health after their travels.

The same elderberry formula used in this trial was previously the subject of a clinical study by Dr. Christian Krawitz at the University of Giessen. In that study, the formula was found to have clear inhibitory effects against influenza A and B viruses, as well as against four bacteria known to cause upper respiratory infections.

The extract used in the research was Iprona AG’s unique formulation of their proprietary membrane ultrafiltration enrichment process. The elderberry extract is standardized to optimize its concentration of anthocyanins and active compounds in the original fruit matrix. (Iprona AG owns the BerryPharma® brand)

Lace up those skates. Studies show that regular exercise increases the number of natural killer cells in the body. Exercise also causes changes in antibodies and white blood cells, which are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies which are produced by white blood cells circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have otherwise done. Plan family play time to keep those kids active. Great family fun activities include in-line skating, bike riding, hiking, basketball, and tennis. 

Maureen Sangiorgio is an award-winning health writer based in Macungie, PA. Maureen has been extensively published in national media consumer publications such as Parade & Spry Living magazines. Awards include Radcliffe College’s Exceptional Merit Media award, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s National Health Information Gold award. Learn more about berries at www.the-berry-room.com, and follow twitter and facebook discussions  @TheBerryRoom and www.facebook.com/TheBerryRoom.