Stillwater Healing Arts
By Dr. Sara Hart, ND, MSOM, LAc
Runny noses, fevers and coughs are an everyday experience for many households with school-aged children. The continuous onslaught of germs that exist all over doorknobs, playground equipment, lunch room and sink faucet’s is enough microbial life to fill the immunological memory of every child. And
this is exactly what is supposed to happen. So get the handkerchiefs ready and arm yourself with some essential immune support for the winter season.
The development of the immune system is a process of necessary exposure to organisms and the body learning how to appropriately respond in order to strengthen as children grow. At birth, the immune system is immature and has no memory to respond to illness without expressing symptoms. After age 1, the child has the capacity to develop lifelong immunity to illnesses that are experienced. Generally, virus and bacteria experienced at a young age result in a well-tolerated experience, which protects them from getting more significantly ill when they are older.
When a child contracts a virus, it typically manifests as a runny nose and sneezing with the body’s attempt to wash it out of the nasal passageway. Once it activates the immune system, it is typical for the body to begin elevating in temperature. The fever response is the most appropriate thing the body can do to counteract the microbial exposure. The elevated body temperature will destroy the organism and result in a highly beneficial experience for the body.
Fever is a normal and miraculous opportunity for the body to “clean house”. A fever is the most efficient metabolic change that can remove unwanted guests from the body, not limited to just the immediate pathogen but also any organisms that may reside in the body creating low-grade irritation. In addition, the elevated body temperature activates powerful mechanisms in the body to correct developmental and genetic errors. Heat shock proteins are components in the body known as cellular chaperones. They work to correct errors in genetic transcription and up-regulate destruction of inappropriately behaving cells.
A fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a functional fever. However, it is not until the body reaches 104 degrees that it is an optimal fever with the greatest capacity to improve health. Rarely, children’s sensitive nervous systems will trigger a seizure response to fever’s over 104 degrees. While these are traumatic events, there is no correlation to febrile seizures and the development of epilepsy so the long-term potential damage is very minimal.
Support for the body’s developing immune system takes on a couple of roles. Firstly, we want to enhance the immune systems capacity to give the child the best defense possible to prevent symptoms from developing. Here are some tools to boost the immune system:
- Consuming fresh, organic foods daily
- Avoiding immune suppressive foods (sugar, fruit juice and refined grains)
- Correcting food allergy, asthma and eczema
- Adequate sleep (10-12 hours per night for school-aged children)
- Low stress routine and modeling proper stress management from adults
When we know the child is exposed to bacteria and virus, we can provide extra support to the system with supplementation of herbs, vitamins and nutrients. We can then allow the child the opportunity to contract an organism and gain the immunological memory while minimizing symptoms and discomfort. Here are some tools for when we know the child has been (or will be) exposed:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
(Dosage and frequency will vary based on age, size and overall health.)
When a child is sick, we can use a variety of tools to help their bodies get the greatest benefit from the illness and simultaneously ease their discomfort and promote a rapid return to health. Here are some ways to do so:
Fever support with hydrotherapy: A fever should cycle from a normal body temperature, up to a peak (no higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit), then back to normal. If there is a constant, low-grade fever, we can use warm baths or warm compresses to assist. If they have a constant high-grade fever, we can gently cool the body by rubbing a cool washcloth on their arms, legs and washcloth. Always keep the body covered in blankets to preserve their warmth and allow them to cool slowly. If the temperature elevates above 104 or they develop a febrile seizure, using over the counter fever suppressant medications is warranted.
Homeopathic Oscillococcinum works to counteract the symptoms of colds and flu while still allowing the immune benefit
Herbal formulas and homeopathics that are symptom specific
Helping children develop an optimally functioning immune system is a great gift we can offer them to support their long-term health. Many adults lose the ability to develop a fever with an illness. This may be due to frequent use of suppressive medications as children, or factors that prevent the immune system from properly functioning such as toxic accumulation, immune dysfunction and metabolic disorders. This is a significant risk factor for developing a wide variety of chronic diseases.
For more information on simple, affordable tools to improve your child’s health and adult’s too, please join us at Stillwater for our THRIVE ~ Natural Medicine Essentials series beginning January 7, 2013. Visit our website for details.