Pediatric Winter Wellness Tips
Oh Minnesota, one day it's fall and the next it's winter. In October! My personality is one that thrives on change, so these big shifts in weather and seasons get me all giddy inside (a heads up would have been nice so I could at least locate my winter gloves!!). I love any reason to cook up a pot of warm nourishing soup, cozy up to the fireplace, and snuggle in a cozy blanket. (I'll be sharing some of my favorite soup recipes soon).
As you know, when the weather gets cooler and days get darker our bodies begin to slow down. It's natural for us to seek more sleep, want the comfort of warm & hearty meals, and to generally feel less energized. While it's important to listen to these cues and lean into them, maintaining (and establishing) self-care routines are even more crucial at this exact moment. I promise you this - when January comes around and it's -10 degrees with only 8 hours of daylight, your family will not be more motivated than you are now to make these changes! So, if you haven't already given some focus to your family's immune health, now is the time.
Keep in mind that illness is inevitable. We’ve all gotten sick at some point in our lives, and there’s a really good chance we will all get sick again. Children are no different – in fact their young and immature immune systems rely on exposure to germs to help stimulate and strengthen immune health for a lifetime to come. That said, chronic illness and delayed recovery time are not necessarily normal, and may in fact be a sign of a weakened immune system. Below are some general guidelines to begin incorporating into your child's daily routine to reduce chances of infection and illness, and to promote speedier recovery times.
Hygiene: Good hand hygiene is the most effective way to prevent infections from spreading. Even when our hands look clean they still can be carrying germs. This is because germs are so small we aren’t able to see them with the naked eye. Washing hands often and well is the best way to beat these tiny warriors. Remind your child to wash hands often while at school – before snacks and meals, after using the restroom, and at the end of the day when they leave the classroom. Additionally, teach your little ones to cough and sneeze into the arm or elbow of their sleeve. This will further decrease the likeliness of contaminating hands and spreading germs.
Sleep: Ensure your child maintains their normal sleep regimen. Studies show inadequate levels of sleep can suppress immune function, increase chances of contracting illnesses, and decrease recovery time. Recommended amount of sleep: ages 3-5 need 10-13 hours, ages 6-13 need 9-11 hours, ages 14-17 need 8-10 hours
Diet: Start with these basic dietary guidelines if not already doing so.
Eliminate sugar!!! This includes sugary drinks, fruit juices, and all refined sugars.
Increase vegetable & fruit intake: 2 servings of veggies per meal, and 1 serving of fruit per meal (berries are best).
Consume fermented foods daily (kombucha, sauerkraut, fermented veggies, kimchi, cortido).
Eliminate/reduce most dairy including cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream (dairy is inflammatory and mucus-producing).
Consume grass-fed and organic forms of meat. This meat will be higher in healthy fats and nutrients, and generally less-inflammatory.
Hydration: On average, a child’s body is composed of 65% water! This large percentage of water is required for many functions including flushing waste and toxins from the body. Additionally, inadequate water intake can make mucus membranes parched and dehydrated, leading them to be more susceptible to inflammation, irritation, and infection.
Water should be the main (or only) form of hydration for children. Avoid fruit juices and sweetened beverages as sugar can further depress immune function. Help keep your child hydrated by letting them select a personal water bottle they can keep with them at school, after school events, and next to their bedside.
Outdoor time: Spending time outdoors has many benefits on health and the immune system. For starters, playing outdoors encourages movement - an important component for circulation, lymphatic drainage, and restful sleep. A moderate amount of exposure to sunlight is also important for synthesis of Vitamin D, a necessary nutrient to fight infection and prevent chronic conditions such as asthma. Encourage your child spend a minimum of 30-60 minutes outdoors after school each day!
Nutritional supplements: While hygiene, sleep, diet, hydration, and outdoor time should be the focus of supporting your child’s health, nutritional supplements can be a great adjunct to prevent and fight infection. Consider adding the following supplements to your child's daily routine:
Omega-3 fatty acid
Elderberry syrup: elderberry has both immune boosting and antiviral properties, making it a great option for both prevention and treatment of illness. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine what supplements and doses are appropriate for your child.
(As always, this information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult with your naturopathic doctor, or healthcare provider, for information specific to your health and before starting any new supplements.)