For children, the start of the school year is filled with excitement and anticipation for new adventures, knowledge, and reconnecting with friends. For parents, it’s the absolute certainty their kids will be exposed to pesky germs and viruses galore.
Most children catch an average of six to 10 colds or flu every year. These infections can result in multiple trips to the doctor’s office and, often, antibiotic prescriptions.
Controversy surrounding the overuse and negative effects of antibiotics has both physicians and parents seeking alternatives to fill this therapeutic gap. For the last decade, the World Health Organization has been advocating for a reduction in antibiotic use due to dangerously increasing global levels of antimicrobial resistance.
A conundrum for parents
When your child is sick and screaming with pain in the middle of the night, you want to fix it—and fast. But at what cost? While antibiotics wipe out insurgent disease-causing bacteria that threaten our health, they’re useless in combatting infections caused by viruses—the source of common colds, most coughs, and the flu.
In addition, antibiotics obliterate our body’s beneficial bacteria and can increase our risk for chronic illness, allergies, depression, and anxiety. Research shows that the earlier children are exposed to antibiotics, the greater the implications. A 2016 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found that children’s guts can take at least a year—sometimes two—to recover from one course of antibiotics. Fortunately, there are natural remedies that focus on prevention.
Echinacea may be the answer
While echinacea has been known and used for centuries to prevent colds and flu, a recent clinical study presented in May at the University Hospital in Zurich was the first of its kind.
The trial, involving 203 children aged four to 12 years, demonstrated that the use of a specific type of echinacea derived from fresh, organic Echinacea purpurea was effective in preventing respiratory infections and reducing the risk of complications (sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia). Most importantly, those patients who received echinacea tablets had a significantly reduced need for antibiotics.
Earlier 2012 research involving 755 adult participants on the same type of echinacea showed that it was safe to take for up to four months and that, taken preventively, it may help strengthen the immune system and reduce the duration of colds or flu.
When compiling your children’s school supply shopping list this year, be sure to include echinacea so you can send them back to school armed and ready to face the classroom—and its germs.
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