Tis the season – cold and flu season, that is!
As the temperatures get colder, the windows are shut tighter, and friends and family gather, there is a rise in the incidence of cold and flu viruses. While hibernation is unfortunately not an option for us, that doesn’t mean that we’re helpless in in the face of all the nasty germs. Here are some things I recommend to my patients that you can do to prevent and treat whatever comes your way.
Breastfeeding: Chances are, most of you reading this article are already breastfeeding. Breastmilk not only nourishes your baby, but it also provides vital defenses for your baby against cold and flu viruses. Especially if you get the same cold that your baby has, your body will develop antibodies that kill off the virus. Antibodies are transferred via breastmilk to your baby. Your breastmilk is frequently changing to meet the needs of your baby, and this is just one of the cool ways!
Flu shots: To vaccinate or not to vaccinate: this is the (often not so friendly) debate between so many moms and families. While I’m not here to start up a vaccine debate, the fact is that getting a flu shot can decrease the chance of catching the flu. For those who catch the flu despite getting a flu shot, the vaccine decreases the severity of the flu. There is some research to suggest that a breastfed baby will get some benefits from his or her mom getting a flu shot, but the best defense comes when mom, baby, and anyone else in the house all get vaccinated.
Essential oils: I know very, very little about essential oils, but I’m learning a little more each day from my Instagram friend @essentially_joilful. She shared with me that she likes to use melaleuca (tea tree oil), On Guard, and Wild Orange for her baby to help prevent and treat cold and flu symptoms. She has used these oils for her son from early on, but she dilutes them by 50/50 or greater with fractionated coconut oil. Diluted essential oils can be applied to the spine and feet of babies. Check her out for more tips and information!
Zinc: There are few vitamins and supplements that I recommend to my patients – but zinc is one that I am quick to share. At the first sign of illness, adults can take 50mg of Zinc twice daily for 5-10 days. Studies have shown that, when taken in the first 24-48 hours after the onset of symptoms, the duration and severity of the cold or flu will be significantly decreased. Keep in mind that zinc taken on a daily basis will actually decrease the immune system, so only take it as needed when symptoms arise.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is another supplement that I recommend in the winter and for my patients who live in New England or other parts of the country that don’t receive a lot of vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is a vital building block for healthy immune system function. Your doctor can recommend the right dose for you and your child.
Healthy eating, exercise, and rest: Easier said than done, right? But, these three things are self-explanatory and go a long way. Just do your best! When you take care of your body, it will take care of you.
Breastfeeding: No, you’re not seeing double! Breastfeeding helps to prevent AND treat the flu. See my explanation above.
Hydration: For babies that aren’t breastfeeding, and for moms, dads, and big kids, make sure to drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration makes it harder to heal and makes cold and flu symptoms feel worse.
Humidification: Running a humidifier throughout the day and evening will help to loosen congestion and ease breathing, especially for babies.
Mattress elevation: Stick a rolled up towel or sheet under the head of a crib mattress to help babies cough less and sleep more soundly.
Antibiotics: One of the most important parts of my job is educating my patients and their families. And the role of antibiotics in treating colds and the flu comes up every day I’m in the office. Antibiotics, quite simply, DO NOT help to treat the common cold or the flu. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, and antibiotics only kill bacteria. Antibiotics, when prescribed to people who have a virus, actually decrease the body’s ability to fight off viruses, because they kill good bacteria that help to defend against viruses. This can have short-term and long-term effects on the immune system. So if your doctor or health care practitioner doesn’t want to prescribe an antibiotic for you or your kids, trust them!
As always, make sure to ask your doctor or your child’s pediatrician any specific questions about symptoms or treatments related to colds and the flu.
Wishing you and your family good health this holiday season!