Here we are again, in the midst of cold & flu season!
Almost everyone has experienced a cold sometime in their life. Colds are caused by a host of different viruses. Common symptoms include low grade fever, runny or stuffy nose, cough, and mild body aches.
Most people with colds improve within a few days—without any complications and with minimal need for treatment. Young children can get higher fevers and may have a longer course of illness if it is their first time encountering the virus.
In contrast, the flu is caused by one specific virus called Influenza. In any given season there are often several different strains circulating in the community. The biggest difference between the common cold and flu is the severity. I’ve often described the flu as the worst cold you’ve ever had. The flu has a more rapid and extreme onset, lasts longer and often includes gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, especially in children.
Unlike the common cold, which has a very low mortality rate, Influenza kills tens of thousands of people annually in the United States alone.
As a Pediatrician of 20 years, and a father of three children, I have seen many kids through cold & flu season and I’d like to share some information about what really works.
COLD & FLU PREVENTION
As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”—and we certainly believe this is true! I know I sound like a broken record, but the most important thing to do is to maximize your child’s health with the basics.
Here are a few things you can do to keep your kids healthy when illness is circulating.
Hand washing for more than 20 seconds with soap and water has been proven to prevent Influenza and many other infections. I recommend doing this before every meal and more often for children who still put their hands in their mouth. Also, encourage children to wash their hands upon returning home from school, errands, and other activities outside the house.
Hand sanitizer must have more than 60% alcohol to be effective. This is sometimes even more effective than hand washing because let’s be honest, do your kids actually wash their hands well?! It is also sometimes the only good option when out of the house.
Many viruses can hang out and wait for you for two weeks or more! This is often overlooked. Some recommended products that are effective for cleaning surfaces would be Force of Nature, Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner, Cavicide, Clorox Wipes, Rubbing Alcohol, and more.
Minimize Travel & High-Risk Activities
High-risk activities include visiting crowded places such as the children’s museum, indoor play areas, or dropping your kids off at the gym childcare. Airports are clearly “higher risk” locations due to the volume of people from all around the world who pass through. If you do travel, please see our tips for Airplane Travel.
Ask your play dates and guests if they are or have been sick recently. Again, viruses can hang out for far longer on surfaces.
Keep your kids home if they are sick! That also means you should stay home if you are ill. This is a major reason why illness spreads. In addition to infecting others, your child is more likely to get something else while their system is challenged and/or recovering.
A good whole foods diet is crucial. Eat a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet. Decrease sugar and processed foods. If you feel you need help with this, book a session with Debbie, my amazing wife and our nutritionist. She can help you get your family on track.
Keep Your Family Well Rested
It’s amazing how powerful sleep and rest can be. I can speak personally and say that I often avert illness if I get the proper rest my body is asking for when I’m first feeling run down.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR COLD & FLU SEASON
There are many supplements that can support you through cold & flu season. These supplements will bolster a healthy immune system and support a speedier recovery should you get ill.
At a minimum, I always recommend starting with our Foundational Four Supplements. There are studies that show that these basics can significantly decrease the frequency of illness in both children and adults. We have a blog post devoted to these supplements and have customized kits for adults and children of all ages.
Targeted Immune Support
These next supplements can be used in addition to the Foundational Four, for further prevention and to support the body during viral illness. Add these during cold & flu season.
- Immune Support. A combination of herbs and mushrooms that assist the immune system by supporting natural killer (NK) cell activity, cytokine synthesis, and the T-cell and B-cell mediated responses.
- Vitamin C. The well document benefits of vitamin C are too numerous to list here, but this vitamin is a very cost-effective way to support inflammation, detoxification, and proper immune function.
- Zinc. Zinc deficiency is very common in the hundreds of patients we have tested. Zinc is a major player for rapidly dividing cells like our immune system.
Additional Support During Illness
If you or your child gets sick, the first thing to do is to increase the doses that you are taking of the Targeted Immune Support Supplements above. Then you can consider adding some of the following supplements to further assist with symptom relief.
- Homeopathic Cold & Flu Preparation. An effective homeopathic used for reducing cold & flu symptoms and for reducing the frequency of respiratory tract infection episodes.
- Botanical Throat Spray. A throat spray that contains antiviral & antibacterial herbs for upper respiratory support.
I hope you find this information useful—and please feel free to share it with anyone who may benefit. If you are interested in the specific products mentioned, we have created Cold & Flu Support Kits.
For young children, please choose option 1, which contains all liquid supplements. For adults and older children who can swallow pills, please choose option 2. Our age-appropriate dosing recommendations will be listed within each kit when you view the products or purchase them.
We know that you have a lot of options for purchasing supplements, and we greatly appreciate your support. Your support helps us to continue to share helpful information and resources with our community.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
In general, there only a few reasons to seek urgent medical attention.
Unlike adults, respiratory distress is one of the most common causes of death in children. If your child is having labored breathing (rapid, shallow, noisy breathing, retractions or sucking in above the clavicle or between the ribs) first assess if they have a fever. In order to keep up with the increase demand of oxygen during fever, our body will immediately increase its heart rate and respiratory rate to compensate.
Once you treat your child’s fever, reassess their breathing. If it’s still labored, then you should call your health care provider or head to an emergency room.
Occasionally a cough can be so severe that your child may have difficulty catching their breath. Try to stay calm and keep them calm, but this is also time to seek medical attention.
Because children have a much smaller blood volume, they are more prone to severe dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea. Please read my post on the tummy bug for more information on preventing & treating dehydration.
If your child is inconsolable and seems in pain for more than 30 minutes, it is a good idea to try treating that pain with Ibuprofen or Tylenol. If this does not improve the situation within 40-60 minutes, or things seem to be getting worse, you should seek medical care.
Although most rashes are safe, there are a few that should alert you to seek care. Blisters and vesicles, petechiae or purpura (look like little bruises and they don’t blanch when you touch them) or hives that lead to facial swelling should alert you to call.
While fever in and of itself is generally not dangerous (see my blog post on fever), a fever lasting longer than 72 hours should prompt a call to your doctor.
When You Are Worried & Don’t Feel Safe With Your Child at Home
I always tell my patients that it is better to not worry alone. If you have tried to assess the severity of your child’s condition and you are uncertain or feel fearful, please reach out to your doctor or seek medical care. You never want to risk missing something serious.