Cold prevention and treatment without the harmful chemicals

(note: this blog post contains affiliate links)

It’s official: summer is over and fall is underway! Kids are back in school and (hopefully) settled into their daily routines. If your family is anything like mine, you’ve already had to deal with the fallout from cold and flu season. Without fail, each time the season changes, the sniffles begin and (if we’re not careful), someone comes down with a cold or flu.

It’s not the temperature changes that cause colds and flu; it’s that certain viruses thrive in the cooler temperatures. Rhinovirus and coronavirus are the most common culprits that cause illness this time of year.

If you have realized that the fall season ushers in the first bouts of cold and flu in your household, there is something you can do to prevent illness from getting your kids (and you too!) off track this season.

 Photo credit: AJC1 via / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: AJC1 via / CC BY-NC-SA

Most people reach for cold medication once the illness sets in. But often, cold medications contain alcohol as well as chemicals like dextromethorphan (DXM or DM, a narcotic) and codeine or hydrocodone (cough suppressants that are also powerful opiates).

DXM is a controversial drug about which the FDA issued warnings back in 2005 (as it had a high potential for abuse, a scenario which has now come to pass). And 10% of children lack the enzymes needed to process this drug. The US Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency, and the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have all recently placed serious restrictions on the use of codeine and hydrocodone, and in some cases have recommended that it not be used at all.

Aside from the dangers these drugs could pose to your children’s health, the medicines that contain them may not be used for very young children (most multi-symptom cold medicines are not recommended for use in children under 4), and they may not work to reduce your child’s symptoms, anyway.

In the worst case scenario, you make a trip to the doctor’s office and leave with a prescription for antibiotics. It’s important to realize, though, that antibiotics rob your body of its own natural abilities to fight disease (especially with repeated use). One way in which antibiotics do this is by killing all of the bacteria – good and bad – in the system. This means that beneficial bacteria cannot do its work of fighting diseases in the body. Taking a probiotic supplement can help lessen these effects, and in fact, anytime you or your child takes an antibiotic, you should also be taking a good probiotic as well. The kinds of probiotics that have to be refrigerated tend to be the best quality on the market.

What if you could treat the body to more effectively fight cold and flu viruses before they can take hold? There are a few ways to do this that work well for adults and kids (even very young kids) alike.

 Photo credit:

Photo credit:

My mother always swore by vitamin C with acerola, which she found out about from a neighbor back in the 1970s. To this day she reminds me that between giving me regular doses of vitamin C and Scott’s Emulsion (cod liver oil) throughout the cold season, I never got sick, not even when I started going to school.

I still rarely get a cold or flu, and when I do, it’s always because I’ve neglected my health by not getting enough sleep, or failing to take preventative care when people around me are sick. My son never gets sick, and hasn’t since he was about 4 years old.

Sometimes my 5 year old daughter gets a cold or flu. This rarely happens more than once during the cold season, and she has never picked up any of the stomach viruses that seem to bring down her classmates during the fall and winter months. When she does get sick, it’s always because I haven’t used the preventative methods that keep her (and the rest of us) well.

Those methods involve using elderberry at the first sign of a scratchy throat sniffle, or cough. And I do mean at the very first sign. Black elderbery, or sambucus nigra, has been scientifically proven to boost the body’s natural immune response. It has antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used by herbal medicine practitioners for centuries. Taken at the first sign of a cold, it can prevent the virus from setting in the body. Even if it is not taken at the very first sign of illness, it can reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms.

I have found that taking this herb in the product Sambucol (which also contains zinc, another immune system booster), is the most convenient option, and the easiest form of elderberry to use. Brewing a tea with elderberries purchased from my favorite herb shop, or making a drink with the liquid concentrate is also a good way to administer, although trickier, as you’ll have to know how to measure the correct dosage for young children (Sambucol for Kids can be used for children as young as 2, while Nature’s Way Sambucus for Kids can even be given to your 1-year old).

Using any of these products is a great way to keep your kids well this cold and flu season, but it’s also important to remember that the best prevention of all is to create the conditions for a healthy immune system in the first place. This means cutting down on processed foods; eating more legumes, fruits, and vegetables; getting enough sleep; and taking a little time each day to just slow down and breathe deeply (even if it’s just for 10 minutes).

Have you used any other immune boosting remedies in your household> Are you willing to share that information? Tell me about your experiences in the comments box below. I'd love to hear from you, readers!