Eight Tips for Avoiding Back-to-School Sickness

Published on August 31, 2016 by Dr. NavNirat Nibber

With September's arrival also comes the beloved, though sometimes dreaded, back-to-school season. With school supply runs and dorm room decoration in full swing we often forget to prep our bodies for the change of season and environment. School children experience five to six colds a year compared with the two to three that adults experience and many viral infections seem to peak during the start of the school year. As many parents know, going back to school often means living in close quarters and that can result in nasty bugs spreading quickly and easily. So, how can you arm your child’s immune system to prevent colds and flu and if they do catch a bug from little Jimmy two desks down, how do you make sure your child can recover quickly and get back to school fast?

Cold Prevention:

  • Wash Your Hands: this may go without saying for older students, but kids need to remember to wash their hands properly with soap and water.  Also, let's stop thinking that hand sanitizer is an appropriate replacement for washing your hands, it's not. While hand sanitizer reduces the number of germs is does not eliminate all types of germs.
  • Deep Immune Support: a good immune system can detect and take care of microbial threats before you even start showing symptoms. Making sure your immune system is optimal means reducing chronic inflammation in the body, ingesting enough protein, especially your essential amino acids, and making sure you have a healthy microbiome (good bacteria to communicate with your immune system.) In the past we have written about some important immune support herbs, minerals, and vitamins. Some herbs can also offer deep immune support such as mushrooms, astragalus, holy basil, and echinacea which are best taken for non-acute infections.
  • Manage Stress: it is important to manage stress and adrenal dysfunction for two reasons:
    • First the “stress hormone” cortisol gets released by the adrenal glands, this suppresses the immune system since its a fight or flight response
    • Second is that a number of hormones that regulate the immune system and precursors to immune cells are produced in the adrenals, so you want to make sure they are supported

Cold Recovery:

  • Skip the Antibiotics in Viral Infections: the common cold is caused by a virus, so adding an antibiotic may be harmful as it wipes out the good bacteria. That being said, bacterial and viral infections may look similar meaning that it's best to check with your doctor first.
  • Sleep: sleep gives your body the much needed time for immune cell reproduction to combat viruses faster.
  • Avoid sugar: sugar suppresses immune function and can feed bad bacteria-causing a secondary infection.
  • Soothing symptoms, such as sore throat, with honey, salt water rinses, or calendula cream for raw noses.
  • Andrographis: the traditional Chinese “cooling” herb Andrographis paniculata. This herb has been attributed to reducing recovery times and susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections. Including rhinitis, phryngitis, sinusitis, intestinal and urinary tract infections.

What makes you feel better when you have a cold?

References:
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Slapak I, Skoupá J, Strnad P, Horník P. Efficacy of isotonic nasal wash (seawater) in the treatment and prevention of rhinitis in children. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2008;134:67-74

Douglas RM, Hemilä H, Chalker E, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007

Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011

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Diagnosis and Treatment of Respiratory Illness in Children and Adults . Bloomington, MN: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement; 2011
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