Whether or not your child gets vaccinated for the flu is a personal choice that only you as a parent should make. But regardless of your decision, it’s essential to take other steps to support your child’s immune system to reduce his/her risk of catching the flu…and to increase the child’s ability to recover quickly if illness does occur. And the good news is, you don’t need harsh drugs to do this! My advice…*

Sleep. No medicine is a substitute for adequate and quality sleep. Make sure your child gets eight to 10 hours a night. (Kids younger than 14 need even more.) If falling asleep is difficult, I often prescribe L-tryptophan, an amino acid that’s found in turkey but may be needed in supplement form to get adequate amounts. Tryptophan is a building block of the “happy neurotransmitter” serotonin and can help kids calm down and relax at bedtime. It’s generally safe for children age 10 and older who weigh at least 75 pounds but should be avoided if the child is taking an antidepressant and/or sleep medication. Check with your child’s doctor for dosing instructions.

Fish oil. It helps with brain function, energy and healthy hormone development in growing kids. Though it does not directly act as an antiviral, a fish oil supplement strengthens the body, which promotes a robust immune system. Few children get adequate amounts of fish oil in their diets. Fish oil is generally safe for children ages four and older. Check with your child’s doctor for dosing instructions.

Elderberry and Echinacea root. These immune-supporting herbs are safe to take on a daily basis for several months. Research shows that people who take both of these plant medicines throughout flu season have a lower risk for viral illnesses, including colds. Kids who take these herbs also get better more quickly if they do get sick. These herbs are available in varying strengths in tinctures and syrups. Follow the manufacturer’s label for dosing. My advice to my patients: Take daily October through March.

Muco coccinum. I prescribe this homeopathic flu medicine as an alternative to the flu shot. It contains infinitesimal amounts of flu virus—much less than is present in a flu vaccine—and helps the body defend against the flu. My advice to my patients: Take once a month from October to March. One tablet should be dissolved in the mouth, 30 minutes before or after eating food. Note: Even though you may be more familiar with the homeopathic flu remedy Influenzinum, I tend to prescribe that formula for acute illness and find Muco coccinum to be a more effective preventive.

TREATING FLU

If your child gets the flu, your best bet is to see your doctor. You’ll get an accurate diagnosis and rule out any complications or related concerns, such as a concurrent bacterial infection on top of the flu or bronchitis—especially if your child has a high fever and/or pain in the ears or chest.

I suggest seeing a naturopathic doctor—we are well-trained in treating the flu and viral illnesses in general. Herbal and homeopathic medicines, teas and baths can hasten a child’s recovery and be safely combined with any other medicine you may use—whether it’s an over-the-counter decongestant or pain medication or a prescription flu medication such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu). To find a naturopathic doctor near you, consult the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

When patients see me with obvious flu symptoms, the first step is prescribing Influenzinum 9 C—a general homeopathic flu remedy—two pellets twice daily for three days.

I also often recommend one of the following four homeopathic remedies to relieve flu symptoms…

Gelsemium: If the child appears dull, droopy and drowsy.

Bryonia: If the child’s mucous membranes are dry…and/or he/she is irritable, thirsty and feels worse with any movement.

Arsenicum: If the child is fearful, anxious, restless and complains of burning pains in the chest and limbs.

Pulsatilla: If the child is weepy and clinging and/or has lots of thick mucus from the nose.

Typical dose that I prescribe to my patients: I choose the homeopathic remedy that seems closest to the child’s symptoms. A 30 C potency remedy is given, and the parent is instructed to place two pellets under the child’s tongue 30 minutes before or after eating food twice daily for one to three days.

Throat Coat tea (by Traditional Medicinals) contains slippery elm and licorice root. It helps when a child has symptoms that may accompany the flu, such as a sore throat or cough, and can even help with an upset stomach. I often recommend that parents have this on hand.

Epsom salts baths are great for kids. A 20-minute soak is relaxing, warming and helps with achy muscles. Kids are often able to sleep shortly after an Epsom salts soak. Increase the medicinal effectiveness of the bath by having your child drink a cup of either ginger or peppermint tea while in the bath. Both herbs have a mild antiviral action and can reduce fever. This is another common adjunct to my care.

*Consult your child’s doctor before giving him/her these or any other supplements or homeopathic remedies.