I’ve just tidied my cupboard and made a list of any supplements and remedies I may need over the winter. When kids come down with something it’s often sudden and at night. Typically I’m just putting one of them to bed when their temperature goes through the roof and they start visibly wilting. I find myself rummaging through cupboards trying to find remedies, knowing they were never returned to their proper place and could be anywhere.

This year I want to be prepared. My hope is that we won’t need any of it but we all succumb to the odd bug. I give my kids a multivitamin and fish oil supplement as a regular thing, just to boost their nutrient levels and support general health. They also take vitamin C if I remember. But I have a small arsenal of weaponry that I find incredibly powerful when illness strikes.

At the first sign of snotty noses or coughs I give vitamin C and zinc drops in water – both have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds and coughs and both are vital to the immune system. If I see a fever developing I also give homeopathic belladonna which is great for lowering a fever yet still allows the body to use its immune system to fight the bugs (fevers are the natural way for the body to restore health as bugs can’t survive at increased temperatures).

I also use a herbal formula based on elderberry (sambucus), ideally look for one that also contains astragalus, echinacea or cat’s claw. This gives the immune system a boost and can increase white blood cells. Elderberries have been used for centuries in the treatment of colds, viral infections and respiratory tract infections. In the case of viruses, sambucus prevents them from entering and infecting our cells.

I try to ensure my kids’ vitamin D intake is sufficient throughout the year. There are three ways of getting this vitamin: eating it (eggs, fish), exposure to sunlight and supplementing. Living in London there’s not so much basking in the sun going on and food sources cannot really offer enough so I do give drops as well, especially during winter. In times of illness I up the amount as vitamin D is crucial for activating our immune defences, triggering the T-cells that destroy invading bacteria and viruses.

Nutritionally kids don’t feel like eating when they’re unwell. This is a logical thing as the energy that’s normally used for digestion is shunted to the immune system when you’re ill – nature’s way of ensuring you’ve got the power to fight the infection. Overloading your digestive system at this time is therefore counteractive. I do keep fluids up and offer homemade stock throughout the day. If they have a fever, I make fruit pops (frozen blended fruits and water) to cool them down and provide extra nutrients. I also offer cherry active drink which can also be frozen – one serving of this provides the equivalent antioxidants of 20 portions of fruit and veg (antioxidants are vital for the immune system). Warm honey and lemon tea with added grated ginger works really well to soothe a sore throat and if you have star anise to hand this is an incredible flu buster.

The thing I usually forget to do while all this is going on is make sure I take plenty of vitamin C and zinc myself – parents get really run down when their child is ill and I often find I succumb to the bug just as everyone else recovers, meaning I’m no use to anyone. If I take precautions as soon as one of them displays the first sign of illness, hopefully I’ll be able to get through the whole thing and stay healthy.

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