The children are back to school and flu season is right around the corner. Although your household may be a clean environment, the germs children are exposed to at school, daycare, and other public places are unavoidable. The average American child has six to 10 colds a year. In fact, children’s colds cause more doctor visits and missed school days than any other illness1. Although most childhood infections happen only once, the protection due to antibody production lasts much longer than any potential protection stimulated by a vaccine. What’s interesting is that a mother can pass along antibodies through breastmilk to protect her infant when she was infected 30 years ago. However, a mother who avoided a certain childhood infections does not produce the antibodies that could be transferred to her child.
The immune system we are born with
Our innate immune system, the one we are born with, changes into an adaptive immune system after we are born and is exposed to an environment full of pathogens and toxicities. The system is highly adaptable because white blood cells differentiate into cells that provide us with an immune response towards pathogens and can provide lasting immunity. For example, one who is exposed to measles at a young age is now protected against measles for their lifetime. The main cells of the adaptive immune system are our lymphocytes.
Around 70% of the cells that make up your immune system reside in the gut2. In fact, many diseases are actually caused by gut problems. This is why having healthy gut bacteria is so important. The gastrointestinal tract is the body’s first line of defense in terms of immunity. Frequent use of antibiotics and medications, high sugar diets, exposure to toxins, and stress all affect the good bacteria in the gut and upset the balance of your intestinal terrain. While antibiotics are often prescribed to treat bacterial infections, they are not effective against viral infections. Viral infections that should not be treated with antibiotics include:
- Most coughs and bronchitis
- Sore throats (except for those resulting from strep throat)
Vaccines: Artificial Immunity
A severe cold can mimic the flu. There are more than 200 cold viruses, they mutate a lot, and virtually everyone has the symptoms of one from time to time. Only about 20 percent of all influenza-like illness that occurs every year is actually associated with an influenza virus. The flu vaccine doesn’t always protect against the virus. There is no single virus that causes the flu; there is no one flu vaccine that protects against all of them. Each year, in February, the FDA makes the final decision about which viruses the vaccine will consist of. Vaccine virus selection varies from year to year depending on the timing viruses appear, growth and reproducibility in labs, as well as other requirements set forth by the FDA. This year, the CDC does not recommend the spray flu vaccine3. Many pediatricians have been using the nasal spray because it is more “kid-friendly”. However, this year a study by researchers in May showed evidence that nasal spray flu vaccine is ineffective and offers the least protection in 20163.
So what about vaccines? Do they protect our children from diseases and outbreaks as much as we are told? Do you consider your child safe if he or she has been vaccinated? Remember, nothing is 100% effective. With the MMR vaccine, according to the World Health Organization, up to 15% of children fail to develop immunity to the first dose, which is why a booster dose is recommended.4 Also, keep in mind that the viruses in the MMR vaccine start to give protection after about 5 days and the mumps component can take as long as three weeks to give protection. Immunity may not last as long as you think in some cases. For instance, for the measles “outbreak” in 2011, more than 50 percent of the 98 infected individuals had received two doses of the measles vaccine.5 There is much information out there about vaccinations. Some material may be misguiding or incomplete. For example, unless you read the insert of the Influenza Vaccine, you wouldn’t know about the effectiveness in pregnant women or some of the other contraindications. Examples of a few of these include:
“Safety and effectiveness have not been established in pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under four. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. This vaccine should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed. It is not known whether fluvarin is excreted in human milk.”
People with egg allergies are contraindicated. “In some studies, fluvarin protected up to 50% of subjects.”
The influenza vaccine package inserts can be found online at:
Washing your hands: One very important protection strategy against germs
One of the body’s most effective defenses is the largest organ in the body, the skin. This protective barrier is in constant contact with germs. Touching toys, playground equipment, classroom supplies, holding hands, and then rubbing their eyes and nose after being infected is an easy way to spread viruses. Washing your hands is probably the most simple way to avoid exposure of germs and viruses. Children generally do not wash their hands often enough or well enough at school. In one study of middle and high school students, about half washed their hands after using the bathroom — and only 33% of the girls and 8% of the boys used soap1. It’s not just our children who aren’t washing their hands either. In July 2016, a study was published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine that reported observations of of medical students, who observed hand hygiene of teaching physicians across multiple different clinical services during weekly rotations. When covertly observed, hand-hygiene compliance was 50% for physicians and 45% for nurses. It was also noted that 81% of trainees did not wash their hands if their attending physicians didn’t.5
Building and supporting the immune system
Your child’s immunity will build as he or she grows. Children should eat a well-balanced diet to get all the proper nutrients they need on a daily basis. We’ve discussed in newsletters before that it’s nearly impossible to get every vitamin and mineral through diet alone. This is where taking a few supplements every day can help keep your child’s immune system strong and will give you a head start on preventing sick days from school.
For children 40-100lbs:
- Take a high potency multiple vitamin for kids.
- Lauricidin: take ½ scoop each day.
- Vitamin C: take 500-1000mg of Vitamin C each day.
- Vitamin D: take 1000IU of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) each day. Get your Vitamin D blood test!
- Omega 3/Fish Oil for kids: take 500 mg/day
- Kids probiotic: find a kids probiotic at the health food store and take per package instructions. Spread these dosages throughout the day with meals. Do not take the full dose in one sitting.
Other strategies to include on a daily basis include getting enough sleep, exercise, drinking plenty of water and limiting dairy intake. Eating dairy products (including cheese, butter, yogurt, and whey protein) make us more prone to getting colds because they create congestion by generating a lot of mucous. It is best to eliminate dairy intake as a whole during this season.
Watch the excess sugar. The effects of too much sugar cause excess inflammation and the sugar actually ends up feeding bacteria. Excess sugar and processed foods also disrupt the natural gut flora and allow bad bacteria to propagate making you more susceptible to infection. Limit the amount of fruit juices your children eat. Also, watch what they are eating for their afternoon snacks. Many of the “go-to” snacks your children crave after a long day at school are full of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Try to offer a snack with more of a protein source like:
- Celery and peanut butter
- Trail mix with nuts and seeds
- Betty Lou Snack Bars
- Vegetables with hummus
- Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich (watch out for sugar added to your nut butter!)
Kids Smoothie: Coconut milk or almond milk, ice, peanut butter/almond butter/ cashew butter, ½ banana, 1 tsp honey. Blend and enjoy!
Is your child getting sick all the time? Do they recover quickly or does the infection linger on? Now is the time to act and to see what your child may be missing. By getting a comprehensive blood panel done, your child’s deficiencies and toxicities can be detected and, with proper guidance from your experienced nutritionist, you will know exactly what to do to fix the problem and prevent future illness. Also, by teaching your children proper nutrition at an early age, it will set them up to make better choices as an adult for a life of better quality and lasting wellness. Let us help your children build a strong immune system and learn healthy habits that will positively affect their well being.
1. Peri, Camille. Germs in the school room. WebMD. December 19, 2011
2. Dr. Hyman, Mark. How good gut health can boost your immune system. EcoWatch. Feb. 2015
3. Anita Valencia, Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine is Overrated; CDC Recommends Not to Use It in 2016 and 2017 Seasons. University Herald Report. September 11, 2016.
4. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/. Accessed 9/14/16
5. The re-emergence of measles in developed countries: Time to develop the next-generation measles vaccines? 2011 http://www.edwardjennersociety.org/wp-content/uploads/The-re-emergence-of-measles1.pdf
6. George D. Lundberg, MD. Doctors and Nurses: Wash Your Hands (Even if No One Is Looking). August 17, 2016