Pre-school is a petri dish of germs. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Whilst germs can get a bad wrap, they're actually a vital part of a healthy childhood. Our kids need to get sick in order to develop and grow. In my experience, whenever Che and Poet have experienced a serious virus or high fever, they seem to go through a process of maturing and come out the other side a little wiser; their sense of awareness has expanded and they're more conscious of their place in the world. Poet started pre-school this past winter and I admit, I wasn't prepared for the onslaught of illness that hit her (which she then kindly shared with me). Sure, it was a bad flu season but my goodness, it seemed to be never ending for a while there. Thankfully, I sought the advice of Rebecca and Naomi from The Red Tent Heath Centre. I had met Rebecca years ago during a prenatal yoga teacher training course and have followed her website and newsletter ever since. A few months ago I completed The Red Tent's online course The A-Z of Home Remedies for Children's Health and I now feel more confident abouttreating the children when they're run down and sick. Next Tuesday, November 11th at 12midday AEST, The Red Tent is offering a free online talk (you can listen via phone or internet) on Fevers and Your Toddler - how to successfully manage them at home for better health. Basically you listen in on a conversation between Naomi and Rebecca as they discuss what fevers are, how they help the body, when to use medication and when to use natural remedies. And it's free! I recently interviewed Rebecca about the best way to prepare your children for pre-school so they can start with a strong and healthy immune system. If you find this information helpful I encourage you to sign up for the free talk.
If your child is about to start pre-school, what can you do to ensure his/her immune system is strong?
You can do a couple of things. If they tend to get colds easily or not necessarily colds, but their nose starts to drip or they sneeze, then you can put them on a diet that promotes good digestion and immunity. This means eliminating mucus-producing foods for a while to ensure they are clear before going to pre-school. When there’s too much mucus, it provides a breeding ground for bugs to multiply. Mucus producing foods include: sugar, fruit (especially tropical fruit, tomatoes and bananas), dried fruit, oily food, dairy products, cakes and sweet biscuits.
So what to eat instead?
- congee or porridge for breakfast made with some bone broth and one or two veg is awesome for gut strength and clearing the mucus.
- rice pasta with a little olive oil and 1-2 green veg (asparagus, broccoli, snow peas, beans, peas)
- blanched, raw or steamed veg as snacks
- rice crackers
- keep foods as simple as possible so they don't tend to form much mucus in the body
Have a look at their tongue. In Chinese medicine, a lot can be seen about a person’s inner world by looking at their tongue. If it has a coating on it of some kind (white or yellow is usual and it could be further towards the back) that tells you they have mucus or “damp” in their body and they’re body isn’t functioning at it’s optimal level.
The other way you can tell is if they have looser more frequent bowel movements. That’s another indication of an imbalance of mucus or “damp” in the body. And if their motions are quite smelly, that’s another indication. So check for all of these things and if they have any of them in the lead up to pre-school, pop them on a more simplified diet that will reduce the mucus before they start school.
It goes without saying that pre-school is a breeding ground of germs. Is it good for our children to be exposed?
It is good for our children to be exposed to germs and it is healthy to get sick sometimes. It’s all about balance. If they never ever get sick that’s not great and if they get sick all the time, that’s also not great. They should be somewhere in the middle.
If you think about it, the pre-school thing is new when it comes to the evolution of our body. Once upon a time, children would not have been all grouped together like that from such a young age. It does mean that it’s a playground for viruses and bacteria to flourish as little ones have no idea about not sharing their slobbery toy or even not slobbering all over it before dumping it and moving on to the next one.
We know viruses and bacteria travel via our bodily fluids as well as simply through touch and sneezing – so through the air – and when little ones are all so close together like that – it’s no wonder they drop like flies when one child gets sick.
If your child comes down with a cold, what are three things you recommend doing to ensure it doesn't linger or get worse?
First: Pull them off mucus producing foods and give them lots of fluids in the form of slow cooked bone or vegetable broth.
Second: Avoid giving Paracetemol unless they are clearly in a lot of pain. Fevers help their body kill the virus or bacteria and so are very helpful. We will go into the ins and outs of fevers in much more detail in the free online talk.
Third: Keep them at home, keep them away from lots of activity, allow them to rest more and be with someone they love so their little body has a chance to heal.
If you do all of this and it doesn’t pass after a few days, always consult your doctor to ensure things aren’t too severe and then consider a consult with your herbalist for a healthy option that encourages the body to heal itself faster. Of course, if you have herbs at home ready to go from your herbalist, you can always use those to help boost their reaction time to the bug.
How does The Red Tent work with western medicine beliefs?
Naomi and myself run The Red Tent and lets just say, we are firm believers in the best of both worlds. We work closely with medical practitioners to achieve the best results for our clients. In hospitals in China, patients are often given the medical attention, care and drugs they require along side Chinese herbal medicine to help their body heal quicker. Drugs do really well at killing the bad guys however there’s nothing in there to help repair the system (gut, immune etc) and get it working to optimal capacity again. That’s where herbs really excel.
When it comes to your child, Doctors are highly skilled at diagnosing illness in children and we feel it’s always best to get them assessed by your local Doctor if you are ever unsure. That way you have the knowledge with how best to proceed and are able to facilitate a combination of the medicines or use one or the other, depending on what’s going on for your child.
If you’re ever unsure and it’s the middle of the night or out of hours, then you can call this hotline – Health Direct Australia – and a qualified nurse will assess your situation which could save you an emergency trip to hospital: 1800 022 222.
What will be covered in the Fevers talk and will it be easy to apply the information to my lifestyle?
In the fevers talk we are going to address why fevers occur and what they are actually doing for your child. We are going to look at when they are useful and when they have gone too far and what that looks like. We will address what you can do naturally to help with them and why you would consider that. We are also going to discuss when to use Paracetemol and what mismanagement looks like and how that mismanagement maybe affecting their health without you even realizing it.
So even if your child doesn’t get a fever but you use Paracetemol here and there, it’s certainly a good talk to listen to as it could be adversely affecting your child and we’ll cover that, regardless of whether they get fevers or not.
We will talk about having an action plan for your child when it comes to fever. Each step will be discussed so you feel in control and know you’re doing the best to support the immunity of your child long term.
What we will teach can be easily assimilated into your lifestyle. Once you know the “whys” and the “what-to-do’s”, you’ll be in such a better position to support your child’s growing immune system.