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School Bugs: 5 Ways to Boost Your Family’s Health During the School Year

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Photo Credit: Phil Roeder under a CC BY 2.0

The new school year has just begun, and your kids are having all kinds of new experiences, coming home with new stories, and are bringing home lots of new bugs.

Immunity can be improved, and there are many things that can be done to make sure that this school year does not include as many absences as the last. 

If it seems like once the school year starts your kids are always sick, following these tips should help strengthen their immune systems:

1. Set (and stick to) Regular Bed Times. 
Going back to school is a major adjustment for your kids — especially for the first few weeks. They come home exhausted, hungry, and crabby. This is the time to really focus on good sleep habits, and good sleep equals a strong immune system. Most school-aged children need 10-12 hours of sleep/night, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

If you are dragging your kids out of bed in the morning to make it to school on time, that is a sign that they did not get enough sleep. You will likely need to enforce an earlier bed time than the kids had in the summer.

If that means putting black-out shades in their rooms so that they can go to sleep at 7:30, then do it. In those first few weeks, that may even mean allowing them to go to bed at a time that seems absurdly early. Pay attention to their cues and make sure they get the sleep they need.

2. Keep Lice at Bay.
This may not be such a concern for those of you with older kids, and isn’t directly related to immunity, but lice are bugs you never want your kids to bring home. There is some evidence that suggests that tea-tree oil may be effective at preventing lice infestations. You can add 3 drops of 100 percent pure tea-tree oil to a quarter-size dollop of shampoo before washing, and can use the same ratio for conditioner.

You can also mix 1 cup of water and 6 drops of 100 percent pure tea-tree oil in a spray bottle, then spray your child’s head and neck lightly each day before leaving for school. You can also spray hats and scarves with this mixture.

The studies out there are small, but using these tips has gotten my family through two day-care infestations without a nit or bug in site.

Photo Credit: U.S.D.A under a CC BY 2.0>

3. An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.

You’ve heard it before, but it is so essential that it bears repeating: a healthy diet makes for a healthier immune system. Sugar is shown to be an immune suppressant, so avoid the urge to put lots of special treats in your children’s lunch boxes. Make sure their day starts with a protein-packed breakfast. Have them choose from several healthy but tasty options for their school lunch.

Make the after school snack a healthy one, such as fruit with almond butter or veggies with hummus. Pack their meals and snacks with protein and fiber so that they have the energy they need to get through the busy day. Focusing on healthy, whole foods will keep your children’s immune systems functioning well, but could also help them focus during their school day, and maybe even make them less grumpy when they get home.

4. Ditch the Antibacterial Gels 

Antibacterial gels are all the rage these days, and many kids even have them named as an essential item to bring on their school supply lists. The FDA recently reported that antibacterial products are no better at preventing the spread of disease than soap and water.

More disturbing, however, is the connection being made between antibacterial products and a host of serious health and environmental concerns. 

There is a great deal of evidence, however, that proper washing of hands can prevent the spread of illness. Teach your children to wash thoroughly for the length of time that it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

5. Supplement Wisely

Black elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra) is a favorite in the natural health world for boosting immune systems as a preventative measure, but also for treating colds and flus once they’ve got you down.

Now the allopathic medical community is starting to take notice, as a few promising studies have confirmed that taking elderberry extract can shorten the duration of the flu by three days.

According to WebMD, “A dose of 15 mL twice daily for three days has been used in children.” Sambucol is the brand that has been studied, but there are many options available at local grocery stores. Follow directions listed on the bottle. There may be other supplements, herbs, or dietary changes that could help your children survive the school year with their health intact. If you have concerns or would like personalized options for your children and family, seek the advice of a trusted health professional. 

Here’s to a healthy, happy school year!


Erin Brockmeyer, LAc, is owner and acupuncturist at Solstice Natural Health in downtown Portland.  She creates custom health plans for patients to help them tackle their most complicated health concerns, including infertility, prenatal care, fibromyalgia, thyroid conditions and chronic and acute pain conditions.  

Visit her website www.solsticeacupuncture.com for more information and to download her free e-book 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health Today.  

Homepage Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc


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