Don’t Let the Kids’ Bugs Bite
The start of a school year can be the beginning of many new things for kids—new friends, new lessons, new activities and, on the less-exciting side of the list, new illnesses. “Young children easily get sick, especially with the abundance of runny noses and increased exposure to germs in school,” says Lauren Feder, M.D., a Los Angeles physician, president of the Holistic Pediatric Alliance and author of Natural Baby and Childcare (Hatherleigh). “Stress, longer days and the change of the seasons can also play a role.” While frequent hand-washing and steering clear of other kids showing signs of illness can be effective for preventing certain bugs, most children will still catch something. That said, the majority of these ailments aren’t serious and can be easily managed, often without medication. “Most illnesses are self-limiting— meaning if kids stay home, rest and drink healthy fluids, they’ll heal on their own,” says Feder. And considering that children will often do anything to avoid going to the doctor, trying some of these natural remedies first could help them to feel better emotionally and physically—and without the nasty chemicals and side effects, to boot.
Cold/flu Upper respiratory infections run rampant among rug rats. “Cold and flu season tends to be at its height around the time kids head back to school since bacteria and viruses spread quickly in vulnerable crowds,” says Glenn Finley, N.D., a naturopathic family physician and co-founder of New Leaf Holistic Health in Kingston, N.Y.
Try: Boosting immunity with 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of Vital Kids Berry Well ($24; amazon.com) two to four times a day. “It’s great in applesauce,” Finley says. He also recommends Muco Coccinum by Unda ($20; rockwellnutrition.com)—essentially the homeopathic equivalent of a flu shot, but in tablet form, shown to be 88 percent effective for prevention and 82 percent effective during an acute episode (and it works for all ages!).
Conjunctivitis Also known as pinkeye, conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses or allergies. “Bacterial displays thick mucus, while viral and allergic tend to present with clear, thin discharge,” says Finley. “Transmission is due to airborne irritants like smoke or contact with an infected person.”
Try: Applying a hot (within comfort level) chamomile tea compress, which Finley says is both antimicrobial and antiviral. If eyes remain inflamed, apply Boiron Optique 1 ($9; vitaminshoppe.com) topically as needed. Feder also likes Pulsatilla for pinkeye with thick, yellow-green discharge, and Apis mellifica when eyelids are puffy and red—both taken orally in the 30c strength ($6 each; drfeder.com).
Ear infections Sometimes viral, sometimes bacterial, ear infections are very common in children—due to their anatomy, with eustachian tubes that don’t drain well, as well as pro-inflammatory factors including diets high in sugar, dairy, eggs, soy and gluten, says Finley. “The inflammatory process can lead to a buildup of fluid, allowing bacteria to thrive,” he notes.
Try: Gaia Kids Ear Drops ($8; vitacost .com). “The formula is antimicrobial and soothing, and the St. John’s Wort can address nerve pain if the nerve is involved,” Finley says. “If symptoms persist, have your health care provider monitor any lymph node involvement or fever.”