By Julia Getzelman, MD – CEO & Founder Getzwell Personalized Pediatrics
Researchers recently discovered a medically significant silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic: a marked decrease in most respiratory illnesses in children. This dramatic drop was a rare bright spot during such a challenging time.
But you might be wondering, if some respiratory illnesses like influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) were largely absent last winter, why did it seem like kids caught about as many colds as usual? Shouldn’t those pesky runny noses have disappeared as well?!
Interestingly, this study also found that unlike influenza and RSV, common cold viruses continued to circulate as usual among children during the COVID-19 pandemic. From March 2020 to January 2021, the percentage of children who tested positive for rhinovirus/enterovirus (RV/EV) — around 30% — was similar compared with the same time period in 2017-2018 and 2019-2020. We don’t yet know why RVs/EVs persisted or exactly how they are transmitted. There’s some evidence that they are very stable and can remain on surfaces for extended periods of time and that they can be transmitted through multiple pathways, including via secretions on hands. Even though most of our kids and we were masked-up, colds infected us anyway.
Researchers are unsure how flu season will play out this winter after last year’s unprecedented interruption. RSV cases have definitely begun to increase again and it seems certain we can count on the common cold to be our steadfast (and annoying!) companion. Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to stay healthy and avoid not only colds but also RSV and influenza as they reemerge in our communities.
Some of the best ways to prevent colds, coughs and the flu are based on common sense. We can all incorporate these habits in our day-to-day life and build a strong foundation for our health.
- Wash hands, as always, especially before eating and try to keep hands away from the face. On the go, use Briotech (non-dessicating and available in our offices) skin spray!
- Nasal washing is an under-utilized practice that helps protect us from viral upper respiratory infections. Irrigate your and your children’s nasal passages at the end of every day, and after any exposure.It’s impossible to “overdo it.” After a viral exposure, germs need to multiply in the nasal passages for at least 1-2 days before any symptoms develop. Nasal irrigation can wash away viral particles before they have the opportunity to take hold and cause an infection. It’s impossible to “overdo it”!
- Drink plenty of filtered water everyday. As a guide, use half your weight in ounces (120lb person = 60 oz).
- Eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables! They contain antioxidants which help keep our immune systems in tip-top shape. They also provide plenty of fiber which keeps our bellies and biomes happy.
- Avoid simple sugars and processed food. Keeping blood sugar levels steady has been shown to enhance immunity. Within 30 minutes of eating simple sugars (like glucose, refined sugar, and fructose) our immune systems lose power and may have as much as a 50% reduction in white blood cells’ abilities to kill germs.
- Get outside for fresh air and daily exercise. Our bodies were made for moving. Moderate exercise boosts macrophages that capture and gobble up bacteria and viruses.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep helps our white blood cells. Even mild sleep deprivation may make us more vulnerable to infections.
- Minimize stress. Excessive amounts of stress have been shown to lower our white blood cells’ ability to kill germs and can contribute to inflammation.
Adding immunity boosters to this foundation is another layer to incorporate to keep healthy. Please make an appointment with one of our providers if you’d like to discuss a customized immune support plan, including specific dosage recommendations.
- Vitamin D3: Supplementation with vitamin D3 can significantly lower rates of infection. Vitamin D3, among other things, increases the body’s production of cathelicidin, which is a natural antibiotic produced by the bodys.
- Fish oil: Omega-3 essential fatty acids generally support a healthy intestinal tract and immune system and provide other long term benefits on the brain and cardiovascular system.
- Probiotics: Many studies have shown reductions in episodes of upper respiratory infections in those taking probiotics. This study showed a drastic reduction in fever and upper respiratory symptoms in children who took probiotics.
- Vitamin C: Studies on vitamin C’s role in helping colds/flu have been mixed, but vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant.
- Zinc: Zinc is essential for white blood cells to function normally. Just 10-15mg of zinc per day can be key in warding off infection.
- Oscillococcinum: A homeopathic medicine that not only treats, but may help to prevent, influenza infection. The good news is it’s safe for use at any age. Take the contents of one small tube weekly to prevent colds and flu, or immediately after a viral exposure.
- Bone Broths: Consider drinking them and using them in your cooking for their rich (and easily absorbed) mineral content which supports gut health and overall immunity. Here’s a great resource and recipes for broth.
At GetzWell, we are your partners in health. We’re here for you when your child gets sick, and we’re also eager to offer personalized approaches for staying well. Please contact us for an appointment if you’d like us to put a plan together for you.