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Boosting Your Child’s Immunity During Flu Season

We are dealing with a pretty frightening flu season here in San Diego. According to the County of San Diego Communications Office, we reached 91 deaths for the season at the beginning of January. The flu can stay active until March.

It’s a frightening scenario. I am a member of several local mommy forums, Facebook groups, etc., and the flu dominates much of the conversation these days. You likely already know a mama or a family suffering through chills, fever, and other uncomfortable symptoms. There are, of course, some very sweet and conscientious ways to help people already stricken with the disease.

flu season

On the off chance that you have not had to deal with the flu, however, you are probably pretty concerned about keeping it well away from your loved ones. I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about what works and what doesn’t work. I even roped in our beloved family pediatrician!

What Doesn’t Work (Officially):

Let’s start with what does not work.

Now, these may very well be strategies you employ because you believe they are working for you and your children. That is totally OK!

In fact, I’ll let you in on a funny little family secret. We have our fair share of folk cures, and that includes placing a cut onion underneath the bed of someone who is ailing. Yes, I know. There is zero scientific evidence that an onion is actually soaking up any bad juju. But late one night about a year ago, when my oldest was crying and feverish, I did it out of desperation. I had already given him medicine, and set up the humidifier, and applied Vick’s Baby VapoRub, and nursed, and rocked, and sang… I was out of options, and lord, was I tired.

In the morning, his fever had broken. His brow was cool and he had a smile and an appetite again. Did I believe the onion was responsible? Of course not. But maybe… just maybe…

We all know that every family is different, and every child is different. Your mama instincts are important, and I honor them. Even if you’re headed to the kitchen right now to slice up an onion.

flu season

Vitamin D

Your doctor probably told you during one of your first wellness visits to pick up some Vitamin D. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under one year of age need 400 IU a day. It’s particularly important if they’re breastfed. Children above a year need 600 IU. The supplement helps to prevent rickets. However, “There is no evidence that Vitamin D helps with flu prevention,” says Dr. Gabriel Murillo MD, FAAP with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. (Dr. Murillo is our family pediatrician.)

Children’s Multivitamins

There are 5-10 brands of children’s vitamins on the shelves at most of the stores we visit. We picked up a jar of Flintstones Gummies for my toddler a few weeks ago when it was clear the flu virus was picking up steam.

However, Dr. Murillo cautions restraint. He says that “mega doses of vitamins A, C, and D can produce toxic symptoms like nausea, headache and rashes.” He also says they have not been shown to be consistently helpful with flu prevention. Finally, they can also interact badly with certain medications. If your kid is generally healthy, they get the vitamins and supplements they need from food. If your doctor does say to try them out, pick ones specifically for your child’s age group and do not treat them like candy.

Elderberry Syrup (like Sambucol)

While I haven’t tried elderberry or black elderberry syrup with my children just yet, I see a lot of fellow mommies talking about trying it out. Dr. Murillo says Sambucol and other treatments derived from this plant are not backed up scientifically in preventing the flu. He does say, however, that eucalyptus can be helpful in fighting the common cold. Add a couple of drops to your child’s vaporizer to relieve symptoms like congestion.

What Does Work:

None of the home therapies and remedies mentioned above are backed by medicine in stopping the flu virus. But that does not mean there is nothing you can do. Far from it!

Keep Things Clean

Channel your inner Monica from Friends and get to work sanitizing your house from top to bottom. I always feel a little less frantic when the pad is clean, and it does go a long way in putting a halt to the spread of germs.

Take That Sick Day

Speaking of germs, no one at work wants what you are selling. If you are under the weather, stay home and get some rest. I feel like this advice should resonate in particular with moms: You have to take care of yourself first in order to take care of everyone else!

The Flu Shot (No, It’s Not Too Late)

Finally, our Dr. Murillo’s primary piece of advice: If you have not already, get the flu shot. “San Diego saw 101 flu-associated deaths during the 2016-2017 season,” says Dr. Murillo. “85% were not vaccinated.”

If you are immunocompromised, if you have children, if you are a caretaker, if you go out in public, ever: get it. “It saves lives!” says Dr. Murillo. The San Diego County Immunization Program also has a lovely little publication debunking flu shot myths to share with your family.

Stay healthy, my friends!

*Editor’s note: The opinions reflected in this blog post is held specifically by the contributing author. This blog post is intended simply to express one author’s personal perspective. San Diego Moms Blog highly respects all of the varying opinions of our contributors and readers and we kindly ask that all comments are respectful of the contributing author. Also, please consult with your own doctor before taking any medical advice. 

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5 Responses to Boosting Your Child’s Immunity During Flu Season

  1. Brandy February 6, 2018 at 11:36 am #

    Great article! I too have done the onion only I applied it directly under my kids feet and put socks on over lol. The reminder of keeping things clean and disinfected is a serious reminder especially when having kids who go to school. Thanks for writing.

    • Daphne Gaghagen February 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

      You’re the second mom who has mentioned onions on the feet to me – how funny is that? We also place handkerchiefs scented with a lemon cologne on tummies when they feel bad (even with adults!) Some things are capable of making you feel better, I think, just because the person doing it loves you and that is communicated in those actions <3 Thank you so much for reading!

  2. Lori C.
    Lori C. February 7, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    With any medical decision, I start where the scientific process starts. In the field. I ask other moms or others who have faced the same decision. What has worked for them. What hasn’t worked for them. What has been their experience with a medicine or remedy or treatment. These are the people I trust, because they have no financial interest in my decision. Modern conventional medicine would like you to believe that ‘evidence-based’ medicine should be the only medicine you choose. That’s a great strategy when you sell patented medicine in a closed market. The problem is the corruption of science by industry and the capture of regulatory bodies by industry. I have done many hours vetting policy and science with regard to health. I encourage everyone to research their options and include field observation, not just ‘evidence-based’ medicine in their decision. I was taught by my dear mother to start with the least invasive and safest option. Modern medicine often does not from my experience. While I understand the fear surrounding the flu, remember that ony 5-10% of people will succumb to the REAL flu in any given season. If you research the flu vax, tamiflu, and tylenol use you will find that each of these are contributing factors to the poor outcomes this flu season with the field observation, science, and many doctors and researchers pointing it out. Why does our media not share how tamiflu and tylenol can contribute to poor outcomes, even the flu shot itself? Because industry pays for the majority of advertising in traditional media. Do the research, all sides, but do not give in to fear. The worst place to make a decision is from a place of fear.

  3. Missy February 8, 2018 at 11:54 am #

    The only thing you have recommended to ‘boost your child’s immunity’ is the flu shot.

    All the natural immune boosters you mentioned, you did so to state they have not been shown by science to work, even when many parents swear by them. There may even be science that does show them to work that your doctor does know about and therefore did not share with you.

    The other tips, which were very practical, were nothing to do with immunity.

    Was this a pharma or health department sponsored post, because it sure seemed like it?

    • Daphne Gaghagen February 8, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

      Hi Missy,
      Thanks for commenting on the post! As I was very careful to state, I am not a medical expert – the expert cited here is our family pediatrician. I also want to emphasize, as I did in the post, that I am well aware that what works for my family is not universal! The San Diego Moms Blog is an awesome space where us ordinary mommas can talk about the things on our minds. I’m glad you weighed in, and I hope you keep reading and engaging!

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