Stuffy noses, watery eyes, big sneezes and sometimes fever—yes, the cold season is definitely upon us. As a result, we naturally spend more time indoors, which helps pathogens spread. The virus itself doesn’t matter but the immune system is everything. Winter ills are avoidable, it’s a matter of managing different factors. Our children’s resilience to infections depends on their living environment, genetic predispositions, their immune system and above all else their energy. We have a big role to play as parents to support our kids’ health this winter!
Why is it that when come into contact with viruses, some people get sick and others don’t? Is it a coincidence? An injustice? Definitely not! This difference is mainly due to the condition of our body and the strength of our immune system.
Our immune system is like our bodies’ soldier squad. They protect us and defend us from invaders who might make us sick. Soldiers must train if they want to be effective on the battlefield. The same goes for children’s immune systems. Theirs is growing and gradually learning how to fight infections. Adults have a better immune system memory and faster response. They’re also less likely to be exposed to new infections than children. The challenge for children is first and foremost preserving their developing natural immunity.
What disrupts our children’s immune system? Lack of sleep, an inflammatory diet, an overly sterile environment, repeated antibiotic treatments degrading their gut microbiome, overstimulated nervous system or even daily stress ending up using up their energy.
Here are few key tips to support our children’s immune system this winter:
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea): Echinacea is a plant that has long been used in traditional medicine by First Nations peoples for its therapeutic effects, especially for colds, but also to stimulate immune systems. This plant has known antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties. Echinacea is an excellent product to have in your home pharmacy to help prevent respiratory infections and boost our children’s immune system.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): Elderberry has amazing antiviral properties that can help relieve discomfort from flu-like conditions, thanks to its high concentration of polyphenols. Its immune system boosting properties make it a good option to use as soon as you see a runny nose or hear a sore throat.
Vitamin D and Vitamin C: These two are the immune system boosting vitamins! Taking them daily is still the best way to ensure children absorb them, ideally along with a diet of unprocessed whole foods, fruits and vegetables, and high-quality protein. But you often need supplements, especially for vitamin D since the sun is in short supply during the winter. For picky children or who don’t eat many vegetables or whole grains, think about temporarily supplementing their nutritional needs with a children’s multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Keep in mind that 80% of our immune cells are our intestines. Feeding our children a healthy, nutritious and fibre-rich diet helps strengthen their intestinal flora and immune system.
And lastly, let them enjoy the outdoors! Dress them up comfortably, so they enjoy the fresh air, benefits from physical activity, and most importantly, nature’s stress-relieving effects. By playing outside they’ll come into contact with vegetation’s microbiome and gradually build an increasingly strong immune system.
Jade Marcoux, ÉESNQ graduate in Naturopathy
École d’enseignement supérieur de naturopathie du Québec
The health and medical information published or presented in this article is the opinion of the author only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Readers should use their judgment. It is their responsibility to independently verify the information provided in the article. The contents of this article are for discussion and informative purposes only and should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. A medical professional is the only person who can evaluate your health and give you advice following a medical examination. Rachelle Béry will not be liable for any of the information presented in this article or in any associated links, nor the use or misuse of the information.
Sources and References:
Barrett B. Medicinal properties of Echinacea: a critical review. Phytomedicine. 2003 Jan;10(1):66-86. doi:
10.1078/094471103321648692. PMID: 12622467.
Manayi A, Vazirian M, Saeidnia S. Echinacea purpurea: Pharmacology, phytochemistry and analysis methods. Pharmacogn Rev. 2015 Jan-Jun;9(17):63-72. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.156353. PMID: 26009695; PMCID: PMC4441164.
Aucoin M, Cooley K, Saunders PR, Carè J, Anheyer D, Medina DN, Cardozo V, Remy D, Hannan N, Garber A. The effect of Echinacea spp. on the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and other respiratory tract infections
in humans: A rapid review. Adv Integr Med. 2020 Dec;7(4):203-217. doi: 10.1016/j.aimed.2020.07.004. Epub 2020 Aug 1. PMID: 32837894; PMCID: PMC7395221.
Wieland LS, Piechotta V, Feinberg T, Ludeman E, Hutton B, Kanji S, Seely D, Garritty C. Elderberry for prevention and treatment of viral respiratory illnesses: a systematic review. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2021 Apr 7;21(1):112. doi: 10.1186/s12906-021-03283-5.
PMID: 33827515; PMCID: PMC8026097.
Maggini S, Wenzlaff S, Hornig D. Essential role of vitamin C and zinc in child immunity and health. J Int Med Res. 2010
Mar-Apr;38(2):386-414. doi: 10.1177/147323001003800203. PMID: 20515554.
Mailhot G, White JH. Vitamin D and Immunity in Infants and Children. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 27;12(5):1233. doi: 10.3390/nu12051233. PMID: 32349265; PMCID: PMC7282029.
Weydert JA. Vitamin D in Children’s Health. Children (Basel). 2014 Sep 12;1(2):208-26. doi: 10.3390/children1020208. PMID: 27417476; PMCID: PMC4928729.
Wiertsema SP, van Bergenhenegouwen J, Garssen J, Knippels LMJ. The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 9;13(3):886. doi: 10.3390/nu13030886. PMID: 33803407; PMCID: PMC8001875.
Verduci E, Köglmeier J. Immunomodulation in Children: The Role of the Diet. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2021 Sep 1;73(3):293-298. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000003152. PMID: 33872290; PMCID: PMC9770123.