Beyond Pills- Treating Winter Illnesses

Q. I understand the difference between viruses (not killable with antibiotics) and bacteria (susceptible to being killed by many antibiotics), but what else can be done to prevent or treat these routine winter illnesses.  I want to try to keep my  preschooler in school for more than a couple days in a row.

A. OK, you have found the major distinction between the two groups of microorganisms, but now let me confuse this a little further by telling you that there are a few anti-viral meds that work like Acyclovir (aka Zovirax) for the herpes family which includes chicken pox, cold sores and genital herpes and many different medicines which are used to treat HIV disease. Other anti-viral drugs are available and still more are in the pharmaceutical companies pipelines. However, the main defense against routine winter illnesses (respiratory as well as gastrointestinal) is great “body care” and the use of alternative remedies.

The school kids understand that a little extra sleep and a lot of extra water helps the body to “get better quicker.” Adults are a touch harder to convince but they listen eventually. My anti-sugar message also seems to resonate better with young children but I have great science on my side. Simply speaking, the immune system does not defend itself as well against invaders when there’s a lot of sugar in the bloodstream. I describe “sludging” of the speedy white cells to kids and I am not really stretching the truth . . . merely embellishing it.

My regimen for prevention includes:

Vitamin C dosed at 500 mg/day/year of age up to a max of 5000 mg/day for adults

Echinacea and astragalus herbal preparations for kids from age ten months on up to adulthood. There are a lot of different brands so follow the directions on the bottle and try to avoid alcohol containing mixtures. Stop using the astragalus when the virus hits, according to old Chinese writings and advice. These are very safe herbs.

Elderberry Extract is an antiviral herb and very safe for children 10 months and up. It attaches to viral binding sites so that mucus membranes do not get infected as easily. It works.

Mullein/garlic oil in the ear (when you’re sure the ear drum is intact) helps ease inflammation, pain and speeds healing without antibiotics.

An important note: Most pediatric authorities now recognize that ear infections should not be treated with antibiotics for the first three days in children who are otherwise well. Pain control is important and then let the body’s immune system do its job. The ear infection will resolve in 70 to 80% of children who do not receive antibiotics.

Eat well, get a little extra rest (not the easiest thing for moms to do!) exercise reasonably, and try some of the suggested herbal and vitamin treatments to get you and your kids through the early viral season.