School is back in session. And parents across the country let out a collective “halleluiah”! But amidst the joy and excitement, there is still a range of fear and confusion. As parents, our natural tendency is to do everything we can to shield our children, supporting them both emotionally and physically. While we can’t protect our kids against every risk the world presents, there are several things we can do to support them through this transition.
Coronavirus Risk for Children
It is widely accepted now that children are in the lowest risk category for developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. In fact, children under the age of 10 appear unlikely to be the source of spread of the virus within a community (1). Older children, while unlikely to become very sick, do appear to be capable of spreading the virus just as easily as adults do.
Children that do get infected often have no symptoms, or mild symptoms like low-grade fever, fatigue and cough. As with adults, however, those with underlying conditions may be at greater risk. Regardless of the situation, if your child develops systems or tests positive for COVID-19, seek immediate support from your medical practitioner.
1. Talk to Your Kids
Perhaps the most important thing we can do as parents is to talk to our children about coronavirus. Fears about the virus are broadcast loudly by every corner of the media world, with lots of confusion, conflicting information and flat out lies. Parents can help young children navigate this mess by proactively bringing it up – don’t let social media determine your child’s opinion on this virus.
When you talk to your kids, it’s essential to check your own anxiety levels first. Approach the conversation with calm; focus on facts not emotions. Kids take their cues from their parents when it comes to anything new or misunderstood. As we discussed, children are at very low risk with COVID-19 – but their bodies feel stress and anxiety just like adults. High levels of stress disrupt the immune system, distracting it from the hard work of fighting a new viral infection.
2. Let Kids Be Kids
If you are comfortable with sending your children to school or other social gatherings, it’s important to reinforce the basics: cough or sneeze into your arm, wash your hands often, don’t eat or drink after others. Beyond that, let them be kids. They need exposure to other humans, they need to play games, they need to get exercise and ideally some sunshine… and, yes, they need to have exposure to germs. All of this serves to enhance the development of a strong immune system, reduce stress and improve sleep – all together the most important measures any of us can take right now.
All of this comes with an important caveat: if there is concern that a child will be exposed to coronavirus and potentially spread it within a household where there is a person with underlying health conditions, it is reasonable to be more vigilant about limiting exposure.
3. Support Their Immune System
There are some easy steps to support your child’s immune system year-round, including:
- reduce stress
- prioritize sleep
- encourage exercise and movement
- eat a healthy diet
- supplement critical nutrients, including zinc, glutathione, vitamin C and vitamin D
4. Feed Them a Healthy Diet
Look, every parent knows that feeding kids health food for every meal is difficult. Conversely, you aren’t doing your kids any favors by feeding them pizza and burgers every day. Here are some tips to try to inch your way toward a healthier diet for kids:
- Eat a vegetable for every meal: Find the vegetables that your kids tolerate – broccoli, carrots, peas, cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes – and mix one of these in every time they eat. Spread a little cheese over the veggies if it helps (cashew queso is fantastic!).
- Include high quality protein often: Pasture raised eggs, grass-fed ground hamburger meat, grilled/baked/rotisserie chicken, steak, raw cheese, whole milk yogurt, canned tuna or salmon – all great options to work into the rotation.
- Smoothies are a great place to hide good stuff: Use whole milk or alternative milks as a base, add some whole berries and a little banana… then sneak in a handful of spinach or some steamed cauliflower, or maybe a scoop of green powder that doesn’t have an overpowering flavor (Amazing Grass and Organifi are some of our favorite brands). Throw in some grass-fed whey powder, or whole milk organic yogurt if creamier texture helps. Almond butter is great for flavor and a little extra protein. And if you must, a spoonful of honey might make it all seem more like a treat.
- Breakfast is important: Kick off their day with some quality food – avoid cereals as much as possible! Scrambled eggs wrapped in an almond tortilla. Hard boiled egg from the night before with a side of breakfast sausage. Smoothies (see above). Chia pudding (made the night before). Oatmeal (best to soak it overnight at room temp) with a touch of cinnamon, honey and maybe some nut butter. Sliced apple with some nut butter on top.
- Substitute simple carbs for healthier options whenever possible: Pizza night? Go with cauliflower or almond flour crust instead of flour. Spaghetti? Find a quinoa pasta instead of wheat. Fried rice with chicken? Try cauliflower rice instead of white rice. Hamburger? See if just a patty with cheese and ketchup eaten like a steak will fly.
- SUGAR is enemy number 1: The best rule: don’t have it at the house, and they can’t eat it. If it’s too big a jump to eliminate treats entirely, look for treats that have less sugar or sugar alternatives like stevia and monk fruit. Good pops, Hu chocolates and Smart Sweets are some of our go-tos.
- NO FRIED FOODS: Vegetable oils are enemy number 2. Combine that with simple starchy foods like potatoes and it’s a recipe for immune system destroying inflammation. Avoid common fried foods: French fries, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, tortilla chips, doughnuts. Go for the grilled chicken strips, baked potatoes, tuna salad, corn tortillas as dippers vs chips.
5. Consider Supplementing a Healthy Diet
The reality is that our kids won’t always eat healthy, and when they do, they are consuming foods that are often devoid of important vitamins and minerals. For example, much of our produce is less nutrient dense than decades ago due to industrial farming practices and mineral-deficient soil. This is where supplements come in – not as a substitute to a healthy diet, but to supplement a healthy diet to ensure all your bases are covered.
Supplement Recommendations for KiddosWe highly suggest seeking trusted sources when supplement shopping – ideally pharmaceutical-grade products. Unfortunately, there are some bad characters that will make claims about products that simply aren’t true. And, as always, check with your pediatrician before giving supplements if your child has existing health concerns and/or takes prescription medication.
- Children’s Multivitamin
- Vitamin D: 1,000 IU per day
- Vitamin C: 500mg per day chewable
- ImmunoPRP Colostrum Spray: 4mg PRP 2x/day – keep it in the fridge for improved taste. We call it “ice cream spray” and kids love it
- Zinc lozenges
We also offer a convenient Kids Immune Supplement Bundle that offers complete support in a few tasty products.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Wellness Team at 512-580-5775. We’re happy to provide you with more support through this challenging and confusing time.
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