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Back to school BUG ALERT!

How to avoid term-time bugs and fight off colds and flu, plus soothing remedies to aid relief

Back to school

The kids are heading back to school and it’s time to start thinking about boosting how to prevent coughs, colds and other nasty bugs that are all too easily shared.

“Children love to touch everything which includes rolling around on the floor getting dirty; this is a sure-fire way to pass on germs,” says Jacqueline Newson, a nutrition and health assessor with Abundance and Health. “Combine this with an increase in bugs that flourish in cooler weather and they’re guaranteed to pick something up, which of course they lovingly bring home to share with you!”

“Children are in close proximity in classrooms combined with seasonal changes, central heating and less fresh air allowing germs to spread more easily,” agrees Ellen Cox of Irish essential oil company Atlantic Aromatics.

“It is essential to remember that we do become more exposed to viral infections during this period, and if a child has any symptoms of a viral infection then they should take time off school to prevent spreading it around,” says Egzona Makolli, a nutritionist at Kinetic.

Added protection

“Hand hygiene is important especially if someone has a viral infection,” says Egzona Makolli. “Make sure that they wash their hands frequently, particularly after coughing or sneezing as this helps prevent spreading any germs around. It is important to know that ‘flu viruses can survive up to 24 hours on hard surfaces, so parents should aim to keep on top of disinfecting surfaces. If a family member has a cold or ‘flu they should have bed rest to prevent exposing the virus to the rest of the family.”

“Diffusing essential oils is a practical approach during seasonal changes and winter months,” says Ellen Cox. “I would recommend using an electric aromatherapy diffuser with a timer for optimum results – on for 30-60 minutes and off for the same period. This can be set for the morning before going to school and in the afternoon/evening. Oils such as bergamot, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, niaouli, ravensara, rosemary, thyme and tea tree would be a good choice.”

“Keep rooms aired – dry stuffy environments promote viral transmission; wipe surfaces with anti-bacterial products; use tissues that can be thrown away immediately; avoid crowded places where risk of infection is greater; wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth when in contact with a cold sufferer,” says Jacqueline Newson.

Coping with a cold

So what can you do if you have already been bitten by a bug?

“Lavender and tea tree oils together in a bath, foot bath or applied as a body oil may help to shorten the duration of a cold,” says Ellen Cox. “Always dilute essential oils before adding them to the bath or applying them to the skin. Add approximately 5 drops of lavender or tea tree essential oil to a tablespoon of vegetable oil for skin applications or if adding to the bath. For a non-oily bath use the same dilutions in full fat milk.”

“Try herbal remedies such as echinacea and garlic – these have antiviral and antibacterial properties and have been used traditionally for centuries,” says Jacqueline Newson.

“Elderberry has long been used for immune-boosting properties,” says Egzona Makolli. “Studies have shown that components in elderberries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes and help relieve nasal congestion.”

The role of friendly bacteria

“Healthy bacteria in the gut produce substances that protect the gut lining and stimulate the immune system,” says Jacqueline Newson. “A recent study suggests that a daily probiotic supplement may help to reduce the occurrence of cold and ‘flu-like symptoms in children by 50% or more. Fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles and kefir help friendly bacteria to grow and flourish.”

“Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that have been shown to boost immunity, improve your digestion and increase your resistance to infections,” says Bernadette Cass.

Choose a friendly bacteria supplement that contains at least three billion viable bacteria per capsule.

Bee power

Obviously not suitable for those with a bee allergy, bee propolis can be a real help in the fight against the seasonal common cold. Essentially the gummy stuff collected by bees from certain plants, propolis is used to seal the hive and has reputed antiviral properties and is rich in bioflavonoids. You can buy it in your local independent health store as a powder, granules, capsule, extract or tincture. Bee propolis is also useful in the treatment of burns and cuts; cold sores; dermatitis and acne; sore throats or inflamed tonsils and relief for arthritis and other joint pain.

Immune boosting

“The best way of preventing a cold is to boost your immune system and that of your children,” says Bernadette Cass of the Fruit n Nut place in Portlaoise, Co Laois. “There is a lot to be said for a healthy balanced diet, most of us already know this so it’s putting it into practise that can be the hard part. Think colour when doing your grocery shopping - green, red, orange, yellow i.e. broccoli, kale, spinach, bok choi, leeks, green beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, peppers, butternut squash, sweet potatoes. Many of these ingredients can be discreetly added to soups, stews, casseroles and smoothies for children, or roasted in the oven as ‘chips’. The same applies to the many different fruits that are in season.”

Natural immune support

Aloe vera – “has immune- boosting and anti-viral properties, is a good all round tonic and as a booster during any infection,” Bernadette Cass.

Beta-glucans – derived from mushrooms, can boost a weakened immune system.

Vitamin C – “studies have shown that viruses cannot survive in a vitamin C-rich environment,” Bernadette Cass.

Vitamin D – “Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with an increased risk of ‘flu virus. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D year-round is an important part of achieving strong immunity,” Bernadette Cass.

Echinacea – works to support your immune system.

Elderberry tincture or syrup – “Elderberry has been demonstrated to inhibit the adhesion of the (‘flu) virus to the cell receptors. When the virus is inhibited from entering cells, it cannot replicate itself and this can lessen the seriousness of the infection,” Bernadette Cass.

Herbal teas – “many of these can be soothing on a sore throat or for respiratory infections. Useful ones to try include ginger, peppermint, eucalyptus, elderberry and Echinacea,” Bernadette Cass.

Manuka honey – look for the UMF logo to guarantee anti-inflammatory properties.

Olive leaf extract – an antioxidant-rich immune supporter.

Selenium – the antioxidants in selenium can help the body fight a cold.

South American fruit camu camu – has amazingly high levels of vitamin C.

Zinc – can help fight infection and shorten the duration of a cold.

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