Before you reach for an over-counter medication, you may want to try these natural flu remedies for kids first.
As the cold weather rolls in, many parents start stressing out about the flu. There are a variety of flu viruses, and the CDC warns that they are constantly changing.
This means that scientists must try to determine which strains will spread the most each year, formulating flu vaccinations that can protect against those strains.
Unfortunately, they aren’t always correct, and the vaccines are often far from effective for most people.
Also, many parents don’t want to give their children anymore vaccines than they absolutely need, if they vaccinate at all.
This is where natural flu remedies come into play. If you prefer to keep everything natural for your kids, there are quite a few preventative strategies that you can use, and there are even more natural remedies to relieve flu symptoms if the virus does sneak up on your household.
The simplest and most effective preventative measures come down to behaviors that you can easily teach your children.
Start by instilling positive hand-washing skills. During cold and flu season, it’s not enough to just wash after using the restroom.
Teach your kids to wash throughout the day as well as after handling items that are shared by other kids.
You can also teach your kids to never touch another child’s face or hands if it’s not necessary.
Protecting their personal space if another kid is sneezing and coughing and trying not to share balls and other items may help, but you don’t want to interfere with your child’s ability to socialize and participate in fun activities.
When all else fails, those dedicated hand-washing skills will form a foundation of protection.
In addition to frequent hand washing, there are some natural flu remedies for kids that you can use to lower your child’s risk of bringing home the flu.
1. Vitamin D
Now that most people are spending less time outdoors, especially in the winter, vitamin D deficiencies are on the rise.
Many people suffer from a deficiency for years without knowing it because many doctors don’t test for vitamin D or don’t understand the importance of checking for this deficiency.
Children are even less likely to be tested than adults.
Many medical professionals have believed for many years that vitamin D deficiencies or insufficiencies are at least partially to blame for frequent colds and flus, and there is now some research to back that up.
One analysis of clinical trials in 14 countries found that supplementing with vitamin D daily or weekly significantly lowered the number of upper respiratory infections suffered by patients, including colds and flus.
Participants in the study were deficient in vitamin D before they started the supplementation protocol.
This means that people who aren’t deficient don’t necessarily need to take a daily vitamin D supplement.
If you don’t know your child’s vitamin D level, simply allowing them to spend more time outdoors will provide more of this vitamin naturally.
As a general rule of thumb, make sure that your little one spends at least 30 minutes outdoors in the sunlight each day.
When this isn’t possible or if you believe that your child just isn’t getting enough sunlight for other reasons, there are vitamin D drops and kid-friendly multivitamins that include vitamin D.
You can buy vitamin-fortified products at the grocery store, so start checking labels.
You can also include salmon, tuna and other fatty fish into your child’s diet for the vitamins and the omega-3 fatty acids. It could be one of the best natural flu remedies for kids around.
2. Immunostimulant Essential Oils
There’s an essential oil for most health and wellness concerns, and boosting the immune system to prevent the common cold and flu is no exception.
Research into the use of essential oils for this purpose is limited, but many people have success when using essential oils classified as immunostimulants.
This means that they support the immune system at the hormonal or cellular level and is one of the great natural flu remedies for kids.
The most commonly recommended essential oil for flu prevention is echinacea. It has been used for hundreds of years to treat a variety of minor medical conditions, and it’s well known for boosting the immune system to fight bacteria and infection.
You have to mix echinacea essential oil with other oils if you want to diffuse it because echinacea plants don’t have a scent.
There are echinacea supplements in pill or liquid drop form. The drops contain carrier oils or other ingredients to dilute the oil so that it’s safe for internal use.
It’s not safe to use this oil internally if you have an autoimmune disease, and it can cause nausea and other mild side effects in some cases. It is considered safe for children.
Other immunostimulant essential oils that you might consider using include bergamot, eucalyptus and niaouli and rosemary.
There are also some powerful flu-fighting essential oil mixes that may deliver more preventative power than a single oil.
They verified that the oil did reduce infection within the cells, and it decreased the amount of infection spreading to other cells.
This doTERRA blend isn’t marketed for use by children, but it is sold as an immune booster and internal cleanser that can help prevent infection, illness and damage from contaminants in the environment.
You can diffuse it in your home or use it to keep the adults in your household healthy.
Even with excellent hand-washing skills, mastery of personal space and top-notch avoidance of door knobs and shared spaces, most children will pick up a mild cold or even the flu at least once during the cold season.
If you use the right natural flu remedies within 24 hours of contracting the illness, you can limit the severity of the symptoms or decrease the length of illness.
You may need to experiment with some of these options until you find the remedies that work for each of your children.
1. Elderberry Extract or Syrup
The blue and black elderberry plants have established medicinal benefits, but the red berries don’t have these beneficial properties.
The flowers and berries are antimicrobial, and many people use elderberry syrup as a daily supplement to prevent illness because it gives the immune system a powerful boost.
When you do come down with something, you may use natural elderberry elixirs, oils and syrups to shorten the length of illness, stop a cough and break a fever.
In 2004, the Journal of International Medical Research printed the results of a study that tested the effectiveness and safety of using elderberry extract to treat two strains of influenza.
All participants in the study were at least 18 years old, but the researchers found that supplementing with elderberry extract reduced the length of sickness by approximately four days.
They also concluded that the supplement is safe for consumption. The patients consumed four 15-milliliter servings of elderberry syrup for five consecutive dats.
Similar results were found in a 2017 study that determined elderberry extract reduced the severity of cold symptoms and the length of illness for more than 300 airline passengers.
The best way to use this natural flu remedy is to buy or make an all-natural elderberry syrup.
It’s safe for children as a preventative measure and treatment, but make sure to follow directions to ensure the proper dosage for your child’s age.
3. Probiotics & Yogurt
Have you heard about your gut microbiome?
If not, this refers to the collection of microorganisms living inside your digestive system, including your colon and stomach.
A lot more research is needed to fully understand all of these microbes and what impact they each have on our overall health, but most medical professionals are already convinced that the secret to a strong immune system and a long, healthy life lies in the gut.
Many health conditions are now believed to start with an imbalance in these microbes. Your unhealthy or damaging microorganisms outnumber your beneficial microbes, leaving your body susceptible to disease and illness.
The solution is to supplement with live cultures that restore balance and give the advantage to tiny organisms known to promote a strong immune system and overall health.
Many medical professionals now recommend probiotics to older people who are at risk of dying from the flu, but probiotics are also available for children.
Look for chewables and gummies that have at least two probiotic strains. You can also feed your children more yogurt and fermented foods that are loaded with natural probiotics.
Make sure to fill them up with raw veggies as well because that’s what your healthy microbes eat.
4. Nasal Saline Irrigation
Did you know that nasal irrigation systems are now made just for children?
These products allow you to wash out the nasal passages, reducing inflammation in the mucus membranes and relieving the symptoms of the common cold and flu.
There are also saline sprays that are puffed into the nose without the messier wash process.
Not only can nasal irrigation relieve congestion, sneezing and other uncomfortable symptoms of the flu, but research has found that they may reduce the length of illness when used consistently.
A study revealed in a 2009 issue of the journal American Family Physician found that irrigation is safe, effective and affordable for many people suffering from upper respiratory infections.
Honey is one of the oldest and most trusted natural remedies for the flu and common cold, and we now have scientific evidence that it has medicinal value.
For instance, one 2014 study published in the Archives of Medical Research found that Manuka honey can effectively inhibit the flu virus.
This study was in the lab not in humans, but it backs up what people all around the world have believed for hundreds of years.
One of the simplest ways to use honey is to mix it with hot tea and sip away your sore throat and cough.
There’s also some scientific proof that giving children honey about 30 minutes before bed will help them sleep better. That may help tired parents get some rest as well.
There’s a lot of controversy over the use of zinc lozenges to treat colds or the flu, but some scientific studies have showed that zinc can reduce the length of illness for many people.
One study even found that supplementing with zinc shortly after the onset of symptoms can reduce the severity of symptoms as well.
While you can’t expect young children to suck on zinc lozenges, there are zinc supplements made just for children.
There are also some that combine zinc with other ingredients, including elderberry extract.
7. Rest, Relaxation & Cuddle Time
Your comfort is one of the best natural remedies when your child is suffering from the flu.
You can take preventative measures if you’re worried that you will also get the virus, but it’s important to take the risk and spend time holding your child or rocking through the most miserable hours of the night.
Just knowing that you’re there whenever they need you will help them feel better, but you will also notice immediately if more severe symptoms are presented.
This allows you to seek medical treatment right away if your child starts to run an extremely high fever, develops a rash or has other symptoms that seem more than the standard run of the flu.
These natural flu remedies aren’t just for your children. If another member of your household or a caregiver comes down the flu, all children in the home are at greater risk of catching it as well.
It’s important to use these preventative strategies yourself, and it all starts with washing those hands and paying attention to doorknobs, ink pens, keyboards and other items that you share with others who may have the flu.