Why no antibiotics? That's probably another post for another day. To keep it simple, it is generally not recommended now to give any child under 1 antibiotics unless they are in a serious situation (even though some doctors will still do it). I believe, however, that antibiotics are not necessary for anyone, regardless of age, unless they are in a serious situation- this is a bit subjective, however, and is something you can only decide with your doctor. But basically it means that the basic cold, ear infection, minor flu, or other mild childhood illness should be dealt with sans antibiotics. The danger of using antibiotics for every little illness is that, each time we use an antibiotic, we are potentially creating antibiotic resistant strains of the bacteria we are carrying. This is an extremely dangerous cycle- ever heard of MRSA? It's an extremely dangerous and extremely antibiotic resistant infection that was normally only caught in hospitals. Now it is on the rise outside of hospitals, and who is most at risk? Kids. Furthermore, every time you give your kid antibiotics you kill not only the bad bacteria, but also the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. So, while you're healing your child in the short term, you're actually harming their immune system in the long term because you're setting up an environment for bad yeast and bacteria to develop. Overuse of antibiotics has even been linked to food allergies. In fact, I hold to the fact that Izzy had no issue with dairy until she took her first round of antibiotics. I understand the mom's drive to give their child "something" when they're sick. Working in daycare I heard time and time again from those parents lucky enough to have knowledgeable doctors "the doctor didn't even give me anything for my kid!" (in an exasperated tone). I understand. You feel out of control when your child is sick, and you want to do something about it.
So what do we do when we're sick? Well, we do everything I have ever heard that helps boost immunity and healing. Some of it I even know has been proven to be ineffective, and I still do it as long as I know it doesn't cause any harm. And part of the reason I do so many things is because my kids are typical kids- they're really picky about what they injest. So to make up for the soup they refuse to eat I make them gelatin juice, and to make up for the yogurt Oliver refuses to eat I give him probiotics in his juice. So here's my list:
- Stock, stock, and more stock. Stock is one of the most healing natural foods on the planet, plus it's cheap, easy (albeit time consuming if done properly), and can be worked into a variety of dishes. This does NOT mean store bought stock or broth, and must be made with bones. See Nourishing Traditions or the link above for the best healing stock recipes.
- Fruit Juice Gelatin. Gelatin is one of the ingredients thought to be beneficial in stock, so I also make this for my kids. The sugar in it is honey, which I don't normally let them eat much of, but honey is known to be antiseptic, so they get it when they're sick.
- Probiotics. If they aren't having digestive issues, I let them have some yogurt. This must be done carefully, though, because dairy can also exacerbate respiratory issues. This would be a good time to utilize kombucha or water kefir if you have that available to you and your patient will drink it. I also mix probiotic powder into apple juice for them. Increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria helps to boost the immune system. Remember, if you're buying a probiotic supplement make sure you buy one specifically for kids (the strains that are beneficial to them are different than those that are beneficial to us) and keep it refrigerated.
- Lacto-fermented anything. This is another source of probiotics. Your child may not want to eat a crock pickles or sauerkraut when they're sick, but if they will, let them at it.
- Raw Cider Vinegar. This is another type of probiotic, and it doesn't taste as bad as some think. I mix 1 tsp per cup of water and disolve a little honey in it- the kids say it tastes kind of like lemonade. I take mine on a honey coated teaspoon because I'd rather have it over sooner:)
- Increase vitamin D, especially in the winter. It's important to remember that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and you can get too much. But since something like 80% of people are deficient, it's pretty safe to take a relatively high dose, especially during the times of year that we don't get much sun exposure. Just be aware of the side effects of too much D, and if you're doubtful get your family's levels checked.
- Cod Liver Oil. This is a good source of vitamins A and D, which are proven to be beneficial to the immune system. And in Cod Liver Oil the two vitamins occur in the proper proportion, which is important for them to be properly used by the body. We had been taking this daily, but had stopped because we don't have a good source of it here- I can't convince the local health store that there IS a difference between Fish oil and Cod Liver Oil.
- Orange Juice. I think that, at the very least, all that is needed to cure a basic cold is chicken soup (made with real chicken stock and garlic) and orange juice. It's probably best if you make your own, but I don't. I don't normally let my kids drink juice, but I make an exception when they are sick.
- Herbal tea. I like Traditional Medicinals for any of my treatment teas- whatever variety applies to you or your child's symptoms. I take echinacea tea to keep up my immune system, and other varieties are good for treating symptoms. For my kids I mix in a little honey so they drink more of it.
- Homeopathy. I don't use this often because, frankly, since the allergy thing was figured out, my kids don't get that sick. Usually it's just sluggishness with a little sore throat and a cough when they lay down. But most health food stores (and even one of my local grocery stores!) will carry homeopathic remedies. At my store they are listed by symptom, which is totally helpful if you aren't an expert on the topic. Again, talk to the staff at the store if you need help, or find a homeopath to help you.
- Overall, give them lots of fluids, eggs, soup, and well cooked vegetables.
- Avoid the following: ALL sugar (except fruit sugar, and only give them fruit if they're asking for it, because it can tax the digestive system and in turn the immune system) and processed foods, and seriously limit dairy and grains.
So if you're like we are and want to avoid antibiotics when you can, I hope I've given you some tools to help your child get better faster.