In light of the news that this year’s flu shot is, at best, 23% effective (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/flu-vaccine-working-23-percent-effective-28249610), many people are wondering what they can do to help protect themselves and their family from the flu. In fact, there are a lot of lifestyle changes that you can make in order to help keep your family healthy during what we have been calling ‘the sick season.’ In addition to influenza, norovirus (what most people refer to as a ‘stomach bug’ or ‘stomach flu,’ that includes vomiting, diarrhea, and fever), and rhinovirus (the common cold), all run rampant this time of year. Many of the tactics that you can use to prevent the flu will also prevent the spread of other common contagious illnesses.
First and foremost, practice proper hand washing! Check out this awesome poster from the World Health Organization. You can print it out and hang it in your bathroom for your kids: http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/How_To_HandWash_Poster.pdf. One of the best best strategies that you can implement to help prevent the spread of illness, is have everyone take off their shoes and jackets, and WASH HANDS as soon as you get home. From anywhere! When you get home from school, the drugstore, the mall, the grocery store, a friend’s house, your mom’s house, anywhere. Every time you walk in the door make it a habit to wash your hands. If you are running multiple errands, or will be in a location where soap and water is not readily available, it is a good idea to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but keep in mind this does not kill norovirus, clostridium difficile bacteria, or many strains of the flu virus. Experts have said that hand sanitizer is more effective at preventing germ proliferation, rather than at killing it off, so it’s important to use soap and water whenever it’s available, and not to rely on hand sanitizers.
In addition to hand washing, when you are out and about, it’s important to try not to touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth! This is more difficult than people realize. It’s habit to rub our eyes when we are tired, scratch our nose, or eat something with our hands. Spend any time with children, and you will notice how often they have their hands in their mouths, and fingers in their nose! That’s one of the best ways to spread germs, so talk to your kids about keeping their hands away from their face. This will be almost impossible for them! But it’s still important to try, and it’s never too late to begin instilling good hygiene habits in our children.
Typically, the influenza virus is considered a “droplet transmission” virus, which means you must come into contact with the secretions of someone who is infected. Some strains have been known to be “airborne,” which means the microscopic droplets can stay suspended in the air for some time and you can become infected by breathing them in. For this reason, if you are going to be in contact with someone with the flu, or if you MUST go out in public when you have the flu, it is prudent to wear a respiratory mask. These are available at any drugstore. While you might feel silly wearing it, it’s better than getting the flu or spreading it to someone else! Alternatively, you could wear a Scough and pretend you are covering your face because you’re cold! http://wearascough.com
Getting regular chiropractic adjustments can help keep you and your family in optimal health. In order for our immune systems to function appropriately, our body and brain need to be able to send effective messages to each other! These messages are sent up and down our spinal cord (in a complex process I won’t bore you with here), and a simple adjustment can make all of the difference if some of those pathways are blocked. Chiropractic adjustments can be especially helpful for children who have frequent sinus and ear infections as the adjustments help to keep those areas open for drainage.
Vitamin D deficiency is almost epidemic in this country, especially during the winter months when we are exposed to very little sunshine. However, vitamin D is crucial for proper immune function and many other functions in the body. In order for our bodies to make adequate vitamin D, we need to have adequate levels of cholesterol in our bodies, and at least 15 minutes of face and arm exposure to sunlight per day. Clearly no one one in the Northeastern United States is getting that amount of exposure during the icy cold winter months. A high quality vitamin D supplement can help fill in the gaps until we can all lay out in the sunshine during the warmer months. We like Bluebonnet brand, Xymogen, and Nordic Naturals, but you can ask your chiropractor or naturopath which supplement brand they recommend. It is especially important for breastfeeding mothers to make sure that they are not vitamin D deficient. Many pediatricians mistakenly claim that breastmilk is deficient in vitamin D and that babies need supplementation, but this is only true if the mother is deficient. Some breastfeeding mothers need as much as 5,000-10,000 IU supplementation in order to have enough vitamin D for themselves and their nursing baby. Your chiropractor or other health practitioner can order a blood test so that you know what your vitamin D levels are.
It is very important to maintain the healthiest diet possible when trying to prevent the flu and other illnesses. By now, most of us know how damaging excess sugar can be to the immune system, so it’s especially important to keep the sugar down during outbreaks of illness! We know how hard it is to maintain a healthy diet when fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t as available and when all you want to do is curl up with some hot comfort food. Nourishing soups that contain a lot of garlic, onions, and ginger will help fight the flu and other illnesses. Bone broth is a wonderful addition to everyone’s diet, see our favorite recipe here: http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth/ Organic oatmeal with grass-fed butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup is a delicious and nourishing way to start the day. Pastured eggs have plenty of protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamin D. Don’t forget to eat the yolk! That’s where the vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats are. Snack on organic almonds and walnuts, organic dried fruit and seeds, and grass-fed cheeses. If you must have something sweet (as we all must sometimes), you can make your own organic low-sugar hot chocolate. Organic, fair-trade pure cocoa powder, plus the milk or milk alternative of your choice, and just a couple teaspoons of organic cane sugar will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Remember also, that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut. There are certain food additives and over-the-counter medications that are known to harm the beneficial bacteria inside your large intestine that protect you from infection. NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can damage gut flora when taken in excess or over long periods of time. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda) have been known to kill off beneficial bacteria. Always read labels of all over-the-counter medications as many contain sucralose or aspartame. Pedialyte, often given to children for dehydration during illness, contains sucralose, which is almost guaranteed to make your child feel worse. Check out this blog for an all-natural rehydration drink for kids: http://dontmesswithmama.com/homemade-citrus-electrolyte-drink/
If you or your family members do happen to come down with the flu, in the absence of other serious medical conditions, it is usually a self-limiting illness. It is important to stay at home, preferably in bed, and to REST, when you are ill! Our culture encourages pushing yourself to the limit, but it’s important to STAY HOME when you are sick in order to prevent passing the illness along to others. Plenty of rest also results in a quicker recovery. Keep hydrated and eat nourishing meals such as bone broth. For kids without an appetite, I make a delicious, immune boosting rice dish that I have put on my birth blog here: https://birthinfullbloom.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/immune-boosting-rice-dish-for-sick-little-ones/
Stay hydrated with coconut water, electrolyte drinks, organic juices, and tea. Organic Lemon Balm tea is both antiviral and delicious! Even kids like it, sweetened with a little raw honey (honey is not recommended for babies under 1 year of age). Breastfeeding babies and kids are much less likely to come down with the flu, but if they do, it is important to nurse frequently for hydration, calories, and immune boosting effects. If you are nursing a baby and your older child comes down with the flu, pumping breast milk and giving it to your older child in a cup can help them benefit from the antibodies it contains. We have yet to read a convincing study indicating that Tamiflu is indicated for treatment of the diagnosed flu, but this is something you must discuss with your healthcare provider.
There are many herbal remedies that are safe for treating common illnesses at home. These include Echinacea and Elderberry, the two most common, Lomatium, Olive Leaf Extract, and others, but as herbal remedies are out of the scope of this blog post, we suggest directly contacting an herbalist or naturopath for dosing recommendations. As always, boosting probiotics and vitamin C will help almost any illness. Note that too much of either can cause loose stools in both adults and children. If this does happen, remember that is normal (and often indicates you have just passed the therapeutic dose), and simply discontinue or back off the dosage.
There are so many ways that you can help protect your family from the flu this season, and not all have been listed here. If you have any questions about the information you’ve read here, please contact us at peaandthepodchiropractic.com or 302-368-0800.
Many children in the United States suffer from recurring middle ear infections, known as Otitis Media.
In fact, 3 out of 4 children will experience at least one ear infection by the time that they are 3 years old.
Ear infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or be the result of allergies, and include symptoms such as severe pain, fever, and irritability. The most common conventional treatment is antibiotics, but these will only work for bacterial infections (many ear infections are actually viral infections), and often don’t resolve the underlying condition. The result is then more recurring ear infections and subsequent antibiotic prescriptions. This in turn can create antibiotic resistance, persistent gastrointestinal distress for the child, and a myriad of other problems. Recurring ear infections can even temporarily or permanently damage your child’s hearing, also resulting in speech delays. For this reason, prevention and treatment of the underlying condition is of utmost importance.
One of the causes of persistent ear infections is actually allergies, both seasonal and allergies to certain foods. Allergies create an accumulation of fluid in various compartments of the body, including the middle ear. This fluid accumulation provides a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. These organisms cannot grow well without the fluid. Eliminating the causes of fluid build-up, by both reducing allergen exposure and receiving chiropractic adjustments to relieve compression around the ear, can reduce the frequency of ear infections.
Ear infections also occur after a child’s immune system has been lowered for any reason. A child’s Eustachian Tube is short, narrow, and horizontal. Because of this, bacteria and viruses (from a common cold for example) can easily make their way to the middle ear. If there is also misalignment of the structures around the ear, the microbes build up and grow even more. There is new research that the overuse of antibiotics and vaccines given early in life can contribute to recurring ear infections. As Dr. Brenda Trudell of New Beginnings Chiropractic explains, “Antibiotics given early in life, or with the first ear infection may alter infants’ immune systems in such a way that they are unable to fight off infections on their own. Some vaccines are known to lower immunity for a period of time, which can make an infant more susceptible to viral or bacterial infections. And six childhood vaccines, including Hib, have “Otitis Media” listed as a common adverse reaction, meaning the vaccine itself is a known cause of ear infections. With vaccines given at birth, 2,4,6 and12 months, it may be a reason why 62% of children are diagnosed under the age of one. A large study in New Zealand showed that vaccinated children were 3 times as likely to get OM than unvaccinated children” (http://newbeginningschiropractic.net/chiropractic-approach-to-childhood-ear-infections/) For this reason, she recommends that children who are showing any signs of illness or fever, NOT be vaccinated at that time. If their immune system is busy fighting off something else they will be more susceptible to a vaccine-induced ear infection.
Childhood ear infections can also be caused by trauma at birth and in this case it is especially important to visit your chiropractor. Infants born via C-section, forceps, or vacuum, are at a much higher risk of spinal and cranial injury and should be seen soon after birth by a chiropractor who specializes in Pediatrics. Babies who are born via C-section and thus were not exposed to the beneficial bacteria of their mother’s vagina are at an even greater risk of developing recurring ear infections.
One natural treatment for ear infections it to put drops of organic garlic infused olive oil or breastmilk in the ear (not to be used if a rupture is present). Supplementing your child with 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D (supplement yourself with 5,000 IU if you are breastfeeding a baby or child), up to 250 mg of vitamin C, and a high quality probiotic will also help their overall health. Exclusively breastfed infants also have much lower rates of ear infections. Most importantly though, if you are planning on treating your child’s ear infections naturally, it’s imperative to clear the fluid out of the ear and open up the space where the bacteria or virus is growing. Otherwise any treatment is going to be short-lived at best. The conventional medical treatment of this scenario is to insert tubes in the child’s ears. Ear tubes are tiny cylinders placed through the ear drum (tympanic membrane) to allow air into the middle ear. The insertion of ear tubes is currently the most common childhood surgery requiring general anesthesia. Both general anesthesia and antibiotics are serious medical interventions that are not without risks. Chiropractic adjustments of the neck and skull have been recommended by many doctors, including Dr. Sears, to aid in the treatment and prevention of ear infections in children, and these adjustments may prevent the need for tubes. Dr. Joan Fallon DC, describes her treatment of ear infections in an article for the American Chiropractic Association.
Before yet another round of “maybe-they’ll-work-and-maybe-they-won’t” antibiotics or the drastic step of surgery, more parents are considering chiropractic to help children with chronic ear infections. Dr. Joan Fallon has published research showing that, after receiving a series of chiropractic adjustments, nearly 80 percent of the children treated were free of ear infections for at least the six-month period following their initial visits (a period that also included maintenance treatments every four to six weeks). “Chiropractic mobilizes drainage of the ear in children, and if they can continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and subsequent infection, they build up their own antibodies and recover more quickly,” explains Dr. Fallon. She’d like to see her pilot study used as a basis for larger-scale trials of chiropractic as a therapeutic modality for otitis media. (http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=69)
Chiropractic adjustments for ear infections usually involve the bones of the neck, skull, jaw, and cervical spine. Correcting the alignment of the small bones in the head and neck allow fluid to properly move and drain. As Dr. Trudell explains, “Chiropractic adjustments remove interference within the nervous system by correcting misalignments in the spinal column, jaw and possibly cranial bones, without the use of drugs or surgery. Correcting misalignments also reduces muscle tension, decreases inflammation, increases mobility, and establishes proper blood flow and lymph drainage, all of which can affect the function of the middle ear and Eustachian tube.” These adjustments are very gentle and nothing to fear! Relief can even begin as early as the first treatment.
If your child is suffering from recurrent ear infections, come and see us at Pea and the Pod! There are many factors that impact recurring ear infections and Dr. Brenda can help you find which health and lifestyle changes will help your family. We also are proud to now have an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant on staff, Mona Liza Hamlin. Exclusively breastfed babies have lower rates of ear infections and if you need help with nursing your little one please give us a call!