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Flu season is right around the corner, and hopefully by now you’ve read my article on the Top Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immune System. But now you’re wondering, what if my kid actually gets the flu? Are there any natural options besides Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, Sudafed, or just waiting and watching?
YES! If you understand how to use natural medicines, you CAN do something to not only help your child feel better, but to help her recover faster!
Starting homeopathic and herbal medicines at the very beginning of flu symptoms can significantly shorten the duration and severity of illness and even knock it out of your child’s system within a day or two. So let’s take a look at some of the tools we have to treat your child’s flu naturally. The following are some of what I give to my own kids, and recommend for patients at the start of a cold/flu:
By now you’ve probably seen Oscilloccinum lining the shelves at Whole Foods. This is THE homeopathic flu remedy, and a MUST at the very beginning of a flu or flu-like illness. Studies have shown that taking Oscillococcinum at the onset of flu significantly reduces symptoms and shortens the duration of illness. (1, 2)
The recommended dosage is 1 vial 3 times over a 24-hour period, preferably at the very beginning of flu symptoms or any illness. The dosage is the same for children and adults. Just down that whole vial of tasty sprinkles and suck on them until they dissolve, ideally at least 10 minutes away from food or drink. For an infant, you can dissolve the pellets in water and give with a syringe or in their bottle or sippy cup.
Individualized Homeopathic Medicines
Specific homeopathic medicines are also very helpful for fevers, colds, coughs, and flu. Homeopathy is one of the safest and gentlest, yet most effective and proven forms of medicine to use when your child is sick. There are virtually no side effects, and no interactions with any other medicines. This is why homeopathic medicines are often my preferred choice of medicine for infants and children, and pregnant and nursing moms. If you haven’t ever used homeopathic medicines, it’s definitely time to try! To learn more about what homeopathic medicines are and how to use them, just take a look at my blogposts What Is Homeopathy – Part 1 and What Is Homeopathy – Part 2.
The particular homeopathic medicine(s) used will depend on the specific symptoms that your child is having. What matters most is how she is experiencing her illness. For example, your daughter may have a high fever with sudden onset, a red, dry face and lots of agitation. Your son, with the same flu, may have a low-grade fever with gradual onset. Even though they caught the same flu virus, they are experiencing their flu differently. Your daughter would benefit from homeopathic Aconitum Napellus while your son would benefit from homeopathic Ferrum Phosphoricum.
There is a vast array of homeopathic medicine to choose from, and it can seem daunting to know which medicine to use. But when you get it right, the results can be amazing! So be sure to stick with me and follow Healthy Kids Happy Kids as I guide you through how to use homeopathic medicines effectively for your child. In the meantime, Boiron’s Coldcalm is a combination homeopathic formula that is great for general cold/flu symptoms, especially when you’re not sure which specific medicine to give.
There are a variety of very effective herbal medicines that work amazingly well to help your family recovery faster from the flu. These are a few of what I have found to be incredibly helpful.
Windbreaker is a Chinese herbal formula by Kan Herbs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, fever and flu are caused by an attack of “wind”. It works GREAT for cold/flu, fever, even allergies! This is my “go-to” for me and my kids. No, I won’t lie – it is a bit bitter, but it’s definitely worth a try. I don’t go anywhere without it, and it will definitely be on my packing list for when we travel over winter vacation! (In fact, we travel with 8-ounce bottles so we always have enough to go around if multiple people get hit with a cold/flu on the road!).
My kids have been taking this since they were infants, and love the taste. But if your kids are a bit pickier, you can mix with honey or a bit of tart juice like pomegranate or lemonade to mask the flavor. The typical dosage for toddlers is 1-2 droppersful 3x/day; for older kids 3 droppersful 3x/day, and for teens and adults 4 droppersful 3x/day.
Pelar-what? Also known as Umckaloabo, this traditional African herb can significantly shorten the duration and severity of colds, bronchitis, sinusitis, and throat infections. It has been found to improve macrophage activity, kill bacteria and viruses, and improve the ability to clear mucous from the lungs. We carry an alcohol-free syrup of Pelargonium Sidoides called V Clear. It can also be found over-the-counter as Umcka ColdCare Syrup by Nature’s Way.
The recommended dosage is ½ tsp 3x/day for children ages 2-6 years, 1 tsp 3x/day for children ages 6-12 years, and 1.5 tsp 3x/day for children over 12 years and adults.
Elderberry has been found to prevent invasion by viruses and bacteria, and also improve cough. A study found that elderberry has the ability to inhibit H1N1 infection in vitro. The authors of the study note that “the H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu).” The typical dosage for kids is 1-2 teaspoons 4x/day depending on their size, and for adults 1 tablespoon 4x/day.
Essential oils have amazing healing benefits and can be a powerful tool to help alleviate those troublesome headaches in your child.
Lavender is my all-time favorite essential oil to use for colds and flus. Lavender reduces inflammation and spasm, alleviates pain, helps fight infection, calms anxiety, improves mood, and relaxes the body and mind. Perfect for when your child is cranky and feeling achy all over!
Essential oils are very safe and effective for use in kids, and school-age kids can even learn to use essential oils on themselves. Some essential oils like lavender can be applied directly to the skin, while others like thyme should be diluted in a “carrier” oil such as coconut oil as direct application can irritate the skin. Essential oils can be used topically and massaged into the soles of the feet, acupressure points, or anywhere else that feels good.
Your child can rub that essential oil blend together in both palms, cup his hands over his nose and mouth and take a slow inhalation through his nose so the oil gets transported straight to the limbic system in his brain to have direct and immediate calming and headache-relieving effects. You can also use a diffuser with 5-10 drops of essential oil to fill the whole house with healing power, or put a few drops in her Epsom salt bath for added calming benefits.
Acupressure is an amazing way to give loving yet therapeutic touch to your kids when they’re sick. One of the easiest and most effective acupressure points to use for any illness, fever or flu is Large Intestine 4 (LI 4).
LI 4 is located on the top of the hand, in the webspace between your thumb and index finger. Put your thumb on the point, and your index finger on the palm side of your child’s hand. Squeeze your thumb and index together, make small circular motions with your thumb with firm but gentle pressure. Aim for several minutes or 100 circles. And better yet – massage essential oils right into LI4 to have an even more potent effect on getting rid of that flu!
Additional Immune Supports
- Increased Vitamin C – to get those free radicals under control and start feeling better faster. I’ve been using Metagenics Ultra-Potent C because it has added ingredients such as lysine and glutathione which assist in fighting viruses.
- Increased nasal irrigation with Xlear nasal spray to clear out those germs!
- Stay hydrated – this is even more important when your child has a fever as he’ll be losing more body water than usual as he’s sweating and breathing faster. Dehydration will also in turn make his fever worse. Don’t worry about food. Focus on fluids. Fluids with electrolytes to replace what he’s losing are ideal – coconut water and bone broth are my favorites. Be sure to check out our blogpost Monday basics: Meat stock vs Bone broth for a tutorial on how to make homemade bone broth – easy peasy! Herbal teas like chamomile are soothing and have added antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Get plenty of rest – let your kid be a couch potato for as long as she wants. She does not, and should not, be acting her usual bouncy self. Allowing her body to rest gives her immune system the chance to do its job and get her back on her way to being her usual energizer-bunny self.
It’s best to have an individualized treatment plan determined by a thorough exam and consultation with an integrative practitioner near you, but don’t worry if you don’t have a holistic pediatrician near you. Be sure you’re signed up for my Healthy Kids Happy Kids newsletter to get information on my eCourse, Everyday Holistic Pediatrics, coming out in December 2017! You’ll learn even more about our natural medicines toolkit (homeopathy, herbs, acupressure, essential oils), how to keep your children healthy, and how to treat their flu, cold, cough, earaches and more – naturally!
I wish everyone a healthy rest of this winter season. Please share this with any parent you know who wants to understand how to take charge of their children’s health naturally!
xo Holistic mama doc – Elisa Song, MD
**PLEASE NOTE: This is an updated version of the flu remedies post I write every year to reflect my latest recommendations.**
If you haven’t already, be sure to download my FREE e-book on natural ways to treat your child’s fever:
1. Ferley JP, Zmirou D, D’Adhemar D, Balducci F . A controlled evaluation of a homoeopathic preparation in the treatment of influenzalike syndromes. Br J Clin Pharmac, 1989 ; 27 (3): 329-35
2. Papp R, Schuback G, Beck E, Burkard G, Bengel J, Lehrl S, Belon P. Oscillococcinum® in patients with influenza-like syndromes: a placebo-controlled double-blind evaluation. Br Homeopath J, 1998 ; 87: 69-76