Oh, the lengths to which we will go to keep our children healthy.
I’ve tried potions, powders, vitamins, boosters — sometimes, to no avail (and instead, to the detriment of my checking account).
It’s easy to fall for the promises these products make, especially in times like these: the height of cold and flu season. It was summer when I first found myself on the quest for that magic bullet that would end our streak of once-a-month doctor visits to treat the runny nose that always, inevitably, turned into an ear infection.
I pumped all the doctors in our pediatrician’s office for advice, then messaged friends and family in the health care field — they all basically told me the same thing: the “immunity boosters” I was asking about might help, or they might not … it probably wouldn’t hurt to try them.
So then, like any other Dr. Mom would, I fell into the rabbit hole known as the Internet. Here are some of the things I emerged with:
Multivitamins: Maybe your tot eats three square meals a day, made up of rainbow-colored fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean proteins. Or maybe you’re living here in the real world with the rest of us and you’re lucky to get your busy preschooler to eat anything at all — let alone anything that can remotely be deemed “balanced.” A multivitamin is an easy extra step to provide some extra nutrients your child might not be getting naturally. Before our kiddo warmed up to the idea of chewable vitamins, we used a powdered blend mixed into his daily yogurt (bonus: probiotics!).
Echinacea: A popular herb that could help lessen a cold or flu if taken at the onset of symptoms, echinacea falls very squarely in the category of “could help, can’t hurt.” In terms of keeping the whole family a little healthier, it’s a relatively cheap option to try, with capsules for adults costing a few bucks a bottle. My almost-3-year-old is skeptical when I try to mix the liquid form into his drink, so I drop his dose in a medicine cup and have him drink it straight. I prefer mine in tea form, with extra honey.
Essential oils: These are still relatively new to me, but they have been the method with which I have been the most consistent. My daily go-to is a few drops of Young Living’s Thieves blend — a spicy-smelling oil designed to boost immunity and kill bacteria. The cons of this product are its price, and the fact that you can’t just go out and buy it in a store. The pros are that, in my experience, it truly works. I’ve “beaten back” a cold by upping my usage at the first sign of a tickle in the back of my throat. My son thinks it’s hilarious that I put drops of the oil on the bottoms of his feet in the morning and at night, so he excitedly brings me the bottles and never protests their application. And since it also happens to smell lovely, the fact that I diffuse it in the house the first 30 minutes we’re home each day just means our home also smells nice and inviting, without chemicals or smoky candles.
Immunity boosting powder: We’ve been using this seasonally, especially on days when the notices of contagious illnesses are posted around school. It has a better taste than the powdered vitamins so it’s easier to pass off to suspicious youngsters (it turns regular applesauce a great, bright pink color) and since the recommended dose is such a small amount, a single container goes a long way.
Superfoods: My blender kicked the bucket this year, so we’re not sipping green smoothies in this house, but I do try to capitalize on the vitamin-packed fruits my son WILL eat. We’ve had success not just offering blueberries, but offering specific amounts (“Do you want three blueberries, or five?”) which is usually enough to get him started eating them, and he often finishes way more that the initially agreed upon serving. Oranges are a traditional kid-favorite, packed with Vitamin C. The 10-lb. bags of seedless naval oranges being sold at Sam’s Club right now are truly awesome because the sections separate beautifully, if your child (like me) hates the bits of white pith that are often left behind.
Proper hygiene: The simplest, the cheapest, and probably the most effective answer to the “how to stay healthy” question is to avoid germs in the first place, but even the most vigilant moms can find this hard to do 100 percent of the time. Have you tried to hold a squirmy toddler over a sink to wash their hands lately? Bring a raincoat. I, personally, hate waterless hand sanitizer, for all its many, convenient forms that all end up leaving my hands feeling both sticky AND dried out, and itchy to boot. Instead, I keep individually wrapped WetOnes Sensitive hand wipes in all my bags (bonus: they’re gentle enough to swipe over messy faces, too). But even if you are successful in cleaning hands and surfaces before every meal and snack, there’s still a very good chance your young child will run from you and lick the plastic play food at the library on the same day the flu is deemed an “epidemic” in your state. Not that I have any firsthand knowledge of such things …
However, for all my cursory research on matters of immunity, for all the times I’ve swiped my credit card at the pharmacy or the Healthy Life Market for THE product that I was sure would stop noses from dripping and fevers from spiking, I’ve learned that there is no magic potion, or combination of preventative measures that will end sick days once and for all.
But with each friend and fellow parent that reports an unstoppable stomach virus, another round of antibiotics, or even — heaven help us — the flu, I can’t help but ramp up my regimen of over-the-counter health aids.
And with every week ticked off the calendar that didn’t include a doctor’s visit, I catch a glimpse of that magic bullet as it whizzes by, maybe — just maybe — a little slower this time.
Lauren McGill is the city editor of the Charleston Daily Mail. She and her husband, Chuck, live in Charleston with their almost-3-year-old son and an aging house cat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/LaurenLMcGill