The lazy days of summer are coming to an end, and parents around the nation just might be getting ready to celebrate one of their favorite days of the year. The First Day of School.
The first few weeks of school are full of excitement for your kiddos as they see their old friends, make new ones, and settle into the rhythm of class time again. But the first few weeks are also prime time for back-to-school germs. And they are nasty.
It doesn’t matter how many disinfectant wipes and bottles of hand sanitizer the school puts on your child’s school supply list. The germs are everywhere, and they can’t wait to settle into your precious student. In fact, the average elementary student will get six to eight colds during the school year.
As tough as the bugs can be, there are natural ways to prevent and treat common colds and influenza. At Balanced Family Natural Medicine, we are here to help as you and your children navigate the back-to-school germs and the illnesses they can trigger.
Why Is There So Much Gunk Right Away?
It just never fails. Seemingly as soon as school is underway, your healthy kid suddenly has a cold. And for little ones, it can happen within a week of school starting. So why does the so-called “back-to-school plague” hit so rapidly?
Contrary to how it may appear, viruses do not mysteriously multiply at an alarming rate as the school year approaches. But a few other things do change at that time of year.
- Everyone is inside. After long days of playing outside or spending time inside with just a small group of family and friends, children suddenly are all crammed together indoors. They are sharing and touching surfaces that harbor all kinds of germs. Bathrooms tend to be what parents worry about when it comes to germs, but actually, there are far worse offenders. Pencils, desks, tablets, drinking fountains, and keyboards hold enormous amounts of bacteria and viruses. Sometimes they are worse than toilets.
- Dry nasal passages. The germs that cause colds and influenza prefer environments with low humidity. During the fall and winter, as the weather changes, our nasal passages dry out. This dryness creates an inviting space for viruses to settle in, leading to illnesses.
- Sleep habits change. Summer break often brings a big shift in sleep patterns for families. Long days, vacations, and relaxed schedules may allow your child to go to bed late and sleep as long as they want. Once the school schedule kicks in, however, they may have a hard time adjusting their sleep habits. Early alarm clocks could mean that your child isn’t well-rested enough to fight off the germs that are literally in their face once school starts.
So, Is There Any Hope to Battle The Crud?
As relentless as the germs may seem this time of year, there are non-pharmaceutical ways to prevent your kids from catching every single thing. Here are the top four natural ways to fight the back-to-school germs.
1. Use common sense.
Teach your child basic cleanliness habits to help ward off all the stuff that’s floating around. A few weeks before school begins, spend time reminding and showing your child how to wash their hands correctly. This habit includes using soap and water and then lathering for about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” Remind them to dry their hands with a clean towel rather than the kid-friendly method of wiping their hands on their pants.
Coach your children to use actual handwashing whenever possible instead of hand sanitizer. This can be a tough sell in a lot of schools. But the more antibacterial products we use, the stronger the germs become.
Also, spend time teaching your children to cough and sneeze into their elbows, not into their hands. That way, they are not proceeding to touch all of the things with germ-infested, snotty hands.
2. Fire up a humidifier at home.
Once the days start to get shorter, and the air gets drier, it’s time to break out the humidifier. Consider placing one in each bedroom and also in your main family gathering spaces.
In addition to creating a less hospitable environment for viruses, humidifiers help you and your children avoid chapped lips and dry skin that often comes with fall and winter weather. If your child’s lips or hands get so dry that they crack, then they are even more vulnerable to infection from all the germs they encounter. For these upcoming seasons, the humidifier is one of your best friends.
3. Protect your kid’s gut.
Gut health plays a significant role in overall immune system health. The gastrointestinal tract is home to about 70% of the body’s natural immune defenses. So protecting this area is critical. You can help your child boost their gut health and healthy immune responses by doing the following things:
- Introduce fermented foods. Fermentation creates a significant amount of good, healthy bacteria that keep your body and immune system in balance. Kefir, Greek yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha are all fermented products.
- Include a probiotic in your child’s daily routine. Ask your child’s doctor for information on dosage for probiotic use. These helpful gut bugs also work to keep things in balance so that your child’s immune system can do its job.
4. Try essential oils.
There are many essential oil skeptics out there, and maybe rightly so. It might seem as if you can find essential oils everywhere, and that someone will claim a cure for any ailment under the sun. In truth, these plant-derived oils do hold many protective and healing properties, but only when they are high quality and used correctly.
At Balanced Family, we suggest using essential oils in a diffuser. Be sure you have high-quality products from a reputable manufacturer. These oils are great for boosting your child’s immune system:
- Eucalyptus Radiata
- Cinnamon Bark
- Tea Tree
Many people choose to use essential oils topically as well. Make sure you understand how to do this safely. Some oils may be too potent to use on your child’s skin, and most need to be diluted in a carrier oil. Never apply oils directly to the skin without instruction on how to do so without harm.
Balanced Family Will Help You Weather the Assault
No matter how careful and proactive you are, colds and cases of flu still happen. Dr. Lara Martin of Balanced Family Natural Medicine is on your team through everything that the germs throw at your children.
She can help you boost your child’s immune system as well as treat the inevitable illnesses that come along. She believes in the body’s power to heal itself and is here to support your child’s well-being in all stages. Reach out today for an appointment to keep your kiddo on a healthy path.