Strengthen WITH THESE IDEAS
YOUR LITTLE ONE’S IMMUNITY
Not only is your child’s immune system still quite immature and in the process of developing, making him more prone to disease, but getting sick is par for the course and part of growing up. What’s more, if he’s stuck indoors at crèche or playschool, being in constant and close contact with other children, who might also be harbouring the cold or flu virus, further compromises his immune system. Of course, as parents, you want to do whatever you can to keep yourselves and your children healthy over the winter period. Here, we look at some ways in which you can potentially boost your little one’s immune system.
NATURAL IMMUNE BOOSTERS
According to registered phytotherapist and homeopath from Cape Town, Dr Craig Wright, there are a few broad, general herbal or homeopathic medicines that are known to boost the immune system – particularly where colds and flu are concerned – that are easily accessible and that you can try. “For babies under one, I predominantly recommend homeopathic products as they are absolutely safe,” he says, adding that if he does use herbal medicine for older children, he only uses what is known to be safe through years of past usage in medicine.
“Elderberry is safe to give to babies and children, as long as you make sure that you’re using the right plant. For example, the Sambucus nigra is the European elderberry. You can either use either the berry or the flower extract but the berry works best if used as an immune booster and as a preventative from autumn onwards,” he explains.
Another one of Dr Wright’s favourite preventative herbs, which is part of the daisy family and very safe, is Calendula. “It’s slightly off label but I find it works very well, and better than Echinacea, particularly for Cape winters. It’s warming and drying and works well in cold and damp environments,” he says. “For a drier climate, I would suggest using Echinacea, which is another well-known immune booster that can be found in many over-the-counter products. It works really well for anyone that has a blocked-up lymphatic system.”
Finally, Dr Wright stresses the benefits of garlic. There are traces of it in some supplements but if you can get it into your child, perhaps through his food and preferably raw, then that would be ideal. “At one point garlic was known as Russian penicillin and it has excellent antibacterial and antiviral properties,” he says.
Administering any kind of medicine is always the hardest part, though. What’s more, lots of herbs are used as tinctures, which means there’s alcohol in the drops. They therefore can’t be administered directly to your baby and Dr Wright thus suggests using teas rather than the tinctures. For toddlers, little homeopathic pills put under their tongues works best. However, always consult your homeopath or doctor before giving any medication to your baby.
VITAMINS, MINERALS & PROBIOTICS
Rose hip has a high vitamin C content, which may help boost the immune system and lessen the duration and intensity of a cold and flu infection.
“It was traditionally used in winter and autumn in Europe where rose hips were harvested and made into a syrup to fight colds and flu naturally,” says Dr Wright, adding that many practitioners use it as a base in children’s medicines. Medical opinion on the benefits of vitamin C is divided, but Dr Wright believes that it can help to boost the immune system.
He also urges moms to consider a vitamin D supplement for themselves and their children because a vitamin D deficiency could lead to a decreased resistance to infection. “Research suggests that our vitamin D production is decreasing because of our decreasing exposure to sunlight, and this has an effect on our immunity. This is particularly true for babies and children who are rightly being kept out of the sun because of the risks of skin cancer and sun damage.
“There are vitamin D supplements that are safe to take. If your baby isn’t being breastfed, then vitamin D might be in the formula,