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You roll over in bed and open your eyes to the sound of little feet padding across the bedroom floor. 

“Mama, I don’t feel so good.” Cough, cough, sniffle.  

Ugh.  It’s inevitable. Kids get sick.  And then, you get sick. And if you have had a little one in daycare or preschool, you may have wondered if your home was getting hit with every virus on the planet, a new one seemingly every 2 weeks. 

The good news? Exposure to lots of germs will build your child’s immunity. The bad news? Hearing them cough all night or struggling to breathe through a stuffed-up nose will break your heart. 

What’s more, you’re not going to get the sleep you need when you’re concerned about your child. And that will do a number on your immunity, too. 

And these days, you’ll also worry whether it’s just a cold or flu or whether it’s COVID.

I have a little one of my own. So I know how heart wrenching it is when a child becomes ill. That’s why I always make sure to have some child-safe dietary supplements and nutrients on hand—just in case. 

In this blog, we will cover the most common illnesses that plague our little tykes and the home remedies to turn them around. Beyond seasonal colds and flus (where we will start), I’ll also go over tummy complaints, skin irritations, and emotional upset and agitation. I want you to have these tools to help your child at the earliest signs of illness, when it really counts.

Here are some of the children’s supplements I keep in my own natural home medicine chest. But first…

 

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Of course, the best strategy is to keep your child from getting sick in the first place. Nutrition is your first and most powerful tool in keeping kids’ immune systems working right. 

Many of us find ourselves wondering what to feed our previously milk or formula fed babies when 6 months roll around and our newly sitting little one, with teeth, shows interest in food.  If you’re like me, this caused me more than a little anxiety! 

One thing to know is that at least until 12 months, food is really about exploring, introducing, and experiencing. It’s much less about nutrient intake. So don’t stress if you only get a bit or so in (or mostly in….the rest will end up on their outfit, in your hair, or on the floor. If that’s happening, you’re doing it “right”! Solid or semi-solid food can be given every few days, initially.  And, even in the toddler years, it’s completely normal for kids’ appetites to ebb and flow dramatically. One pediatrician wisely expressed her advice as, “Think about what they consume over a week, rather than this or that meal.” 

Without going into detail on what to feed your baby and when, I will link to my favorite book on this subject HERE. 

For kids who are eating solid foods, avoid processed foods and grains (fun fact: we don’t really make the digestive enzymes needed to digest grains in adequate amounts until at least 2 years of age). Focus on grass-fed animal products, pasture-raised eggs, and raw dairy. Make stocks and soups from organ meats and bones. 

Most importantly, avoid sugar and fruit juice, which weakens immune cells’ ability to fight off infections. One study showed that eating 100 grams of sugar doesn’t decrease the number of immune cells (neutrophils), but it decreases how well they respond to infection. Watch out for processed grains and flours such as fruit, crackers, puffs, and chips. We want to avoid those for our children, however hard that may be. Instead, choose fruit with fiber and starchy vegetables to complement the healthy meats and eggs.   And for on the go snack options (yes, i know we all love a good puff ; )– there are now nutrient dense grain-free options like these, which contain bone broth, cassava root, and whole veggies–toddler approved! 

Their pouches are really amazing as well, and include wild caught or pasture raised animal foods, healthy fats, bone broth, and high mineral organic veggies.

 

Is It Really a Seasonal Illness—Or Something Else?

Before reaching for dietary supplements, be certain your child’s problem is really a cold or a flu and not an imposter. Congestion, fever, hacking cough with a greenish discharge from the nose or eyes can mean your child is actually teething. Teeth breaking through the gums can cause inflammation. This mirrors symptoms of a viral or bacterial infection. 

 

Children’s Remedies for Colds, Flus, or Other Ear, Nose, and Throat Symptoms

sick child

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete system of medicine that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses for more than 5,000 years. As a TCM practitioner, I have seen these safe, gentle Chinese herbal formulas work wonders for congestion of the ears, nose, throat, lungs, as well as coughs, and colds. Kan is a good brand. I know because I used to work as their herbalist, and I know they test for purity and accuracy of proper composition of herbs, heavy metals, pesticides, and microbial contamination. In general, I recommend using medical grade Chinese herbal formulas that you can buy through a healthcare practitioner. 

Give the TCM herbal formulas I mention below to your child when you nurse or when the child eats. Mix them in water, juice, or mashed fruit or veggies. My daughter even loves the taste directly on her tongue and asks for them!  Here are general doses to keep in mind:

0-4 years: 15-30 drops, 2-4 times daily. 

In very tiny babies (under 6 months), consider 3-5 drops if at all. 

4-8 years, 30-45 drops, 2-4 times daily. 

8-12 years: 60-90 drops, 2-4 times daily. 

1 full dropper = 30 drops 

In very little ones, give the TCM formulas through breast milk. If you might need to give this treatment through breast milk to your nursing infant, please consult with a trained practitioner first. Dosing varies for mothers. In general, I recommend mothers take 2 milliliters per dose, 30-45 minutes before nursing for the highest concentration in breast milk.

 

Immune-Boosting Nutrients

It’s best to start with the basics. Defending your child against common childhood illnesses starts with making sure he or she is nourished with the most effective children’s immune vitamins. 

Vitamin C and Zinc – Both of these are immune-boosting powerhouse nutrients that can stop viruses in their tracks. Vitamin C may stop your child from getting sick in the first place. And when your child is already ill, vitamin C and zinc can shorten the amount of time your little one is sick. They can also make the illness less severe.  

The bad news? Deficiencies in these nutrients are really common. Zinc deficiency is an especially big problem. That’s because an anti-nutrient known as phytate found in many cereals blocks zinc absorption. If your child gets a lot of upper respiratory tract infections like colds or respiratory flus, you can probably blame it on zinc deficiency. Giving kids zinc reduces the risk of respiratory infections and their duration.

Signs of low zinc:

  • Growth retardation
  • Neuro-sensory disorders or cognitive impairment
  • Rough skin (bumps on arms is need for omega-3 fats or vitamin A usually)
  • Lowered immunity
  • Signs of depression and ADHD correlation

Vitamin D – This is another nutrient important for immunity. And many people are deficient. We live in a sun-starved society where people stay indoors for fear of getting skin cancer or are simply too busy to step outside. 

I give my kid a sugar-free vitamin D gummy every day. Just be certain your child is old enough to chew, otherwise this type of vitamin D is a choking hazard. You can use vitamin D drops for very young kids who can’t chew and make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D yourself, especially if you’re breastfeeding. 

Multivitamin – Still breastfeeding? Then make sure you’re taking a good prenatal vitamin. For children who are older and able to chew, I like Xymogen Kids Chewable Multi

 

Anti-Viral Supplement

Monolaurin – This coconut-oil-derived supplement hits the virus where it counts: its protective lipid shield, which destroys the virus’ main defense. South Pacific islanders who ate a lot of coconuts had almost no colds or flus compared to other non-coconut-eating native peoples. 

Monolaurin is one of my favorite children’s cold or flu remedies. You can give your child monolaurin proactively or at the first signs of a cold or stomach flu. This reduces their symptoms and speeds up their healing. The product I like is called Lauricidin. The mini pellets should be swallowed with water or juice or placed in apple sauce, pudding, or peanut butter. 

 

Immune Support

Probiotics – These friendly flora do double duty. They can keep children healthy over the long-term and reduce symptoms when your little one is sick. They’re especially good at reducing symptoms of colds and flus and fending off the ear infection known as otitis. I’m particularly fond of Klaire Labs Ther-biotic for Infants powder and Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Children’s Chewable. Garden of Life Gummy Probiotics is another good one for children who can chew, as is RAW Probiotics Kids.  

Colostrum – This is a fluid released from the breasts of female humans, cows, and other mammals after they’ve given birth and before breast milk is released. It’s a powerful immune-booster packed with antibodies that fight infections. This is an important supplement for infants who aren’t breastfed, are under six months old, and who have GI issues. Keep in mind that taking too much colostrum can cause constipation and the non-spray form has dairy.  My favorite product is PRP Spray

Myco-Forte Liquid – This moisturizing supplement is a good choice to support immunity in kids with dry mucous membranes and respiratory tracts. Ideal for kids who tend to have dry skin or get a dry, barking cough when they get sick.

DHA – An omega-3 fatty acid, DHA fortifies kids’ immune and respiratory function in utero and during developmental stages in childhood. DHA also prevents asthma attacks. And we haven’t even touched on its stellar actions for brain development! Important for mom to take during pregnancy and for kids throughout childhood and beyond. 

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – This amino acid breaks up thick gunky mucous in the nasal passages and respiratory tract. It boosts the production of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant. One bonus: NAC may also make kids with autism less irritable and cut down on obsessive compulsive behavior like hair pulling, nail biting, and skin picking.

Bioray NDF Immune – Supports lungs, throat, and sinuses and reduces body aches during viral infections. It bolsters the immune system, calms irritability, and strengthens respiratory health. The formula contains chlorella, antioxidants from organic fruit, and naturally occurring vitamin C, zinc, copper, manganese, calcium, and potassium. Great to pair up with the two traditional Chinese medicine formulas Chest Relief and Pipe Cleaner (more on these below). 

Windbreaker – A combination of Chinese cinnamon, chrysanthemum flower, Chinese mint, burdock seed, and honeysuckle flower, this formula fights an invasion of viruses and bacteria. It’s good for kids with symptoms like sneezing, coughing, runny nose, mild fever, aches, irritability, and itching or scratchy eyes, nose, and throat. Start this at the first sign of illness and continue it while your child is ill. Pair it with any of the below formulas for colds and flu. 

Minor Bupleurum combined with Windbreaker – Antiviral and antibacterial, Minor B is used both to ward off colds and flus and to fight them after they’ve gotten into the body. It opens blockages, so I love this for ear infections. 

Chest ReliefA combination of citrus peel, licorice, bamboo juice, and white mulberry leaf, Chest Relief formula gently clears phlegm and boosts immunity. It’s best for cough with sticky phlegm that’s hard to cough up and that’s made worse by drafts, temperature changes, or when your child is out in the wind or lying down. It’s not a good choice for severe wheezing.  

Pipe Cleaner – This combination of schizandra, radish seed, and honeysuckle flower, normalizes mucous secretion and breaks up congestion and strained breathing. Best for children with symptoms like wheezing, coughing, dry throat, sticky phlegm (yellow or green), and feeling thirsty. This can be used together with Chest Relief.

Open Air – Apricot seed, tangerine peel, and Chinese cardamom team up to relax the chest, and open up air tubes in the lungs known as bronchioles. It’s good for wheezing, shallow breathing, and a cough with phlegm, as well as a dry mouth and throat. Open Air is used more for when cold or flu symptoms resemble asthma. 

 

This Little Piggy and Other Tips

Acupressure of the feet – Massage your child’s sides of toes to open up and drain the sinuses. Gently roll each “little piggy” between your fingers.

Use a Humidifier with Eucalyptus Oil – Adding eucalyptus oil to a humidifier can fill the air with an antiviral scent. 

 

Children’s Remedies for Belly Aches and Poor Digestion

stomach ache

Grow and Thrive – This is a gentle Chinese medicine formula that can help with loose stools, diarrhea, poor appetite, slow growth, indigestion, and more. It promotes digestion and assimilation of food for better nutrition and growth. It encourages food to pass smoothly through the intestines, training peristalsis (the muscular actions that squeeze food through the gastrointestinal tract). Grow and Thrive promotes a healthy gut microbiome.  It contains lycii berry, Chinese hawthorn berry, tangerine peel, radish seed, fennel, magnolia bark, and toasted kudzu root.

Grow and Thrive is indicated for children with underdeveloped “spleen.”In Chinese medicine, spleen has many functions, but it somewhat correlates with our ability to digest and assimilate our food. When we can’t digest and assimilate properly, our bodies become starved for nutrients and our cells and organs malfunction. When the “spleen” is weak or underdeveloped, we will often see “dampness” in Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine each organ system has a state of relative moisture and temperature in which it functions optimally; generally speaking, the Spleen operates better when dry and warm, and problems arise when it is cold and damp. A cold, damp spleen  can show up as loose stool, drooling, poor appetite, and kids who tend to start solids later. That’s because spleen strength is required to be able to handle and use those solid foods!  

When your child cuts teeth, it means that the “spleen” and “kidney” are developing well. Not to be taken literally. In Chinese medicine, “kidney” is related to the ability to develop and grow. In other words, digestion, assimilation, healthy growth, and development are underway!

This is a sign that your baby is ready for solid food introduction. What we feed them can support or hinder this development. Focus on nutrient-dense foods. For example, avoid rice cereal and opt instead for liver and egg yolk.  Meat broths, veggie broths, and pureed veggies are great. Fruit  in moderation.

Tummy Tamer This formula helps move food through the intestines and counteracts indigestion, belching, gas, bloating, nausea, bad breath, or stinky poo.  With cardamom, fennel, bitter orange, licorice, and water plantain, Tummy Tamer eases belly aches, slow digestion, and irregularity. It also helps relieve symptoms after eating such as nasal congestion, fatigue, or irritability. If your child has these or other food sensitivity symptoms, you will like this product. But dietary changes and addressing root causes of gut-immune imbalance are also necessary to send food sensitivities packing.

Easy GoingIf your little one can’t go, this is a gentle and tasty option containing rhubarb root, flax seed, hyssop, and bitter orange fruit. It does many of the good things for digestion as Tummy Tamer but it is specifically designed for constipation.  I tend to use this along with Liquid Magnesium (Douglas Laboratories) and sometimes combine it with NDF Pooper formula as well. This should be discussed with a trained practitioner if your child has ongoing constipation, but it is generally safe for occasional or short-term use.

Belly BinderMuch like Tummy Tamer above, Belly Binder moves food through the intestines and optimizes digestion, but it is specifically designed for children with diarrhea or loose stool. It contains lotus seed, Chinese yam, anemone root, and cardamom.  Chronic loose stools or diarrhea aren’t normal so you may need to meet with a trained practitioner and run a stool panel to get to the root cause. But for occasional or short-term use, it is generally safe.

 Any of the above 3 can be combined with NDF Tummy.

 

Children’s Remedies for Skin Irritations, Rashes, and Skin Allergies

Fire Fighter – This is a very energetically “cold” formula for rashes, swollen glands, or gooey leaky rashes. It’s great for infections of the eyes, ears, nose, or throat (think sinus infections or Strep throat). It clears and moves heat and toxins out of the blood using dandelion root and flower, Chinese mint, scrophularia root, and clove flower. It circulates healthy blood and oxygen to the skin and mucous membranes where it is needed. Fire Fighter can help with hives, boils, acne, or itchy insect bites or stings. It can help with mild allergic reactions and even food sensitivity symptoms.  It is not for long-term use, but is very safe.

 

Children’s Remedies for Emotional Upset, Agitation, and Poor Sleep

kid sleeping

NAC – Mentioned above for thinning mucus, NAC also helps to calm irritable children. It can help with hair pulling, nail biting, skin picking, children on the autism spectrum, or other signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It supports detoxification by making the master antioxidant, glutathione. I recommend 300 – 900 mg/day three times daily in kids over 5 years old.

NDF Focus – Improve your child’s cognitive function, focus, and his or her ability to handle stress. This is a perfect addition when your child also has a histamine response, such as seasonal allergies, runny nose, and/or itchiness. I like this in cases where ADD is a consideration. NDF Focus reduces environmental sensitivities, supports adrenal health (Eluethero, reishi mushrooms, Chinese licorice root, Schisandra berry), and liver health (milk thistle, Agaricus, Chinese licorice). 

Quiet CalmThis formula clears heat from the mind and spirit, relaxes muscles and nerves, and stops spasms. It will help your little one with mood swings, crying spells, moodiness, pensiveness, anxiety, timidity, and/or tantrums. With jujube seed, Schisandra, lotus seed, mimosa tree bark, gardenia fruit, and red tangerine peel, it’s good for kids with difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or with nightmares. It is even more appropriate if there is mucus in the ears, throat, or sinuses.

 NDF Sleepy– Good for restlessness and worry, it is similar to Quiet Calm and can help kids fall asleep more quickly. Similarly, it contains jujube seed, and albizzia bark (bigger happiness tree), which has been shown in studies to improve getting to sleep and staying asleep. It also contains dan Shen and reishi mushroom to soothe irritability and restlessness.

 Quiet Calm and NDF Sleepy are very similar, some kids respond better to one over the other. I usually try one and then the other to see which is the best fit.  

 Nutrition plays a big part in children’s stress, anxiety, attention deficit, and mood. Check out The Better Brain, a book by premier researchers Dr.s Bonnie Kaplan and Julia Rucklidge, which explores the topic further.

 

Don’t Be Frightened of Fevers 

Does your child spiking a fever send you into a panic? Even as a trained medical professional, the first time my child spiked a fever it was scary!  We might even reach for the Tylenol (acetaminophen) to lower that fever. After all, it’s safe compared to aspirin, right?  Nope. Tylenol (Acetaminophen) in excess is well known to harm the liver. Tylenol is tied to increased risk of asthma, eczema, allergies, and runny nose. All of these are symptoms of liver toxicity and leaky gut, indicating Tylenol could contribute to these two conditions. 

baby sick

Even worse, Tylenol is dangerous when mixed with other drugs. Every year there are 100,000 calls to poison control centers and 450 deaths from Tylenol-caused liver failure alone. Acetaminophen causes more cases of acute liver failure than all other medications combined.

Listen; I’m not saying don’t ever use Tylenol. Just think twice about whether your child really needs it.  Consider leaning  on the natural remedies mentioned earlier,  first,  when your child is feverish, coughing, or congested. Generally, fevers under 102 degrees are not something to worry about. Viruses like cold. They don’t like heat. A fever sends the virus on a one-way trip to the Sahara desert, where it heats and destroys the little bugs and stops them from thriving. The faster your child burns off the virus, the sooner they will be feeling good again!

That said, if you are confused or think you need to seek medical help for your child with a fever, then by all means do so. Your intuition is primary!

Here are some general rules of thumb about navigating your child’s fevers.

Seek medical attention for:

  • Babies under 3 months with a fever of 100.4 or higher
  • Babies between 3 and 6 months with a fever of 101°F (39°C) or higher
  • Kids over age 3 with a fever over 102° F that lasts for 2 or more days

Seek medical attention right away if your feverish child has these symptoms:

  • Trouble feeding (nursing)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rashes
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Inconsolable
  • Lethargic and drowsy, less responsive, or trouble waking up
  • Lowered urine output or not pooping (if very young)
  • Rapid or strained breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Body or neck seem stiff

Herbs can help lower fever in children but you will need to discuss this with your trained healthcare provider. 

 

Safe, At-home Remedy for Fevers

Here is an old Chinese medicine treatment, called the “Lemon Wrap,” to lower fever. It is safe to try at home, and especially when fevers are on the lower end and not accompanied by any of the symptoms mentioned above. I have used it with babies older than 6 months, and with  toddlers, with fevers higher than that mentioned above.

lemon wrap

You will need:

  • A lemon
  • Hot water (2-3 cups) in a pan
  • One pair of adult cotton socks
  • One pair of adult wool socks
  • Rubber dishwashing gloves

Directions

  1. Warm up your child’s feet with warm water or a warmed water bottle first.
  2. Squeeze the juice of a lemon in 2-3 cups of water.
  3. Heat in a pan until hot to the touch.
  4. Soak the cotton socks in the mix.
  5. Put on gloves and squeeze out the excess liquid from the socks. It may be hot on your hands. Let the sock cool until you can comfortably touch it, like to the safe but warm temperature of bathwater for your child.
  6. Pull on the cotton socks over your child’s feet, all the way up the calves, or thighs if it reaches.
  7. Put the wool socks on over the cotton ones, and cover up your child with a blanket.
  8. Wait until the socks are completely cool to the touch, or dry. They will actually dry out pretty quickly,
  9. Then apply another round. Up to 3 times.

Your child will probably nap after this fever-lowering treatment. You should see the fever come down several degrees in a relatively short time, as few as 1-2 hours.  If the fever persists, seek medical help.

 

How To Improve Children’s Immunity

Illnesses are part of daily life with children. But there are so many preventative, nutritional, and herbal tools at your disposal to ease their discomfort and get them well sooner. If you’d like to work with me to support your child’s immune health naturally, let’s meet for a free 15-minute troubleshooting call. During this chat, I’ll get to know more about your biggest concerns and where your child might be struggling. Then I’ll work with you to devise a customized plan to keep your little one healthy and strong and ready to face any immune challenges that come your way. 

 

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