feeding sick kids

Feeding the common cold

There is nothing common about the “common cold”.  “Common colds” are ghastly. The streaming eyes, the mounting piles of germ-ridden tissues, the pounding and weary head, the painful nose rash.  And trying to understand the temporary speech impediment – “Bobby, cad I (atchoo!) hab a tissue for by dose?”. Whether you are caring for a little sufferer or battling one yourself (or, horror of horrors, both), probably the worst part of having a cold is that there is no cure, as the common colds can be caused by over 200 possible rhinovirus strains for which we have no antidote. It’s all about managing symptoms, putting on a marathon session of Dora the Explorer, and riding it out.

The old adage “feed a cold, starve a fever” may have some truth to it. Eating may activate the digestion and immune system to fight viruses (like colds and flus). Having a cold tends to take away your appetite, which is normal when your nose is blocked and everything tastes like soap, but try to keep your little one nibbling throughout the day.

feeding during illnessNow what do we feed our common cold colonised kiddie?

Vitamin C is the obvious starting point. Dosing with vitamin C can reduce the length of a cold by 18% in children – about a day or two shorter. Vitamin C can also prevent the cold from worsening asthma. 1000mg daily of a good supplement should do the trick, although some scientists recommend 2000mg. Don’t forget about food sources of this vitamin. Fruits are easy to eat when you’re ill, so serve up oranges, naartjies, berries and kiwi.

Zinc given as lozenges or syrup every two hours can be very useful for reducing the duration of your pesky cold, but try to start the zinc within the first 24 hours of the cold. Make sure to check the ingredients of your zinc lozenges – if they contain citric or tartaric acids, sorbitol, or mannitol, the zinc won’t be as effective. As zinc and vitamin C work together in the body in the immune system, it is recommended that you take them together! Don’t mix your zinc lozenges with dairy, as dairy can also reduce zinc absorption. Don’t forget about zinc containing foods such as nuts, meat, fish, chicken and legumes. A lot of these foods may to be rich for your sick bubs, so plain steamed chicken or fish may be best.

Quercetin is a plant flavonol with antiviral and anti-inflammatory  properties, and can be found in blueberries, red onions, kale, cranberries, broccoli, and green tea. It may help reduce common cold symptoms, and make sure to have these foods with a vitamin C as it helps the absorption.

Drinking hot liquids, such as boiling water, tea, or yes, chicken soup, may also have a beneficial effect on colds as heat may help the movement of stubborn mucus.  On that note, don’t forget to keep your little one hydrated!

Honey may be helpful to soothe sore throats, protect the respiratory tract, and has antioxidant and antimicrobial effects, and a study has shown that honey can reduce coughing and improve sleeping during a cold.  Opt for darker honeys which are richer in antioxidants, and give ½ teaspoon if your baba is under 5 years, 1 teaspoon between 5 and 12 years, and 2 teaspoons over 12 years. Remember that for babies under one year, honey is not safe.

Studies show that dairy does not cause increased mucous

Garlic, ginger and turmeric are known to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Garlic has been shown in research to have antiviral properties and will decrease your risk of catching a cold.

That said, don’t forget to help your littlies avoid catching a cold in the first place! Here are some prophylactic measures:

If your little one has been under stress, dosing up to 2000mg vitamin C daily can help prevent a cold.

A new vitamin to focus on is vitamin D.  It is well known that we catch more colds in chilly and rainy weather; but strangely, scientists have proven that being cold or wet doesn’t increase your risk of catching a cold. Rather, one of the reasons may be that we don’t see the sun as much in this weather and we lose out on vitamin D. Vitamin D is surprisingly important for the immune system, and unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get enough of this vitamin through food – you need to spend some time in the sun or supplement. Vitamin D is best for preventing respiratory infections, and not so much for treating colds, so try to make sure you get out of the house when you can,  encourage your children to play winter sports, and if you live somewhere like rainy Cape Town in winter, think about a vitamin D supplement of about 400IU a day.

A daily probiotic has been shown to reduce cold risk in children

Cold-fighting eating plan

Breakfast: Fruit salad with naartjie segments and strawberries, rich in vitamin C and easy to eat, with a cup of hot water with lemon juice and honey.

Snack: Handful of almonds for zinc, handful of blueberries for quercetin and vitamin C, with a hot cup of green tea and honey

Lunch: Chicken soup, with a cup of hot  or cold water with lemon juice and honey.

Snack: A little bowl of raw Rosa tomatoes for vitamin C, with ginger steeped in a cup of hot tea and honey

Dinner: Warm winter stew made with garlic, ginger and turmeric, with a cup of hot  or cold water with lemon juice and honey.

**Take a zinc lozenge every two hours whilst awake

**Use 5-10mL of vapour rub at a time, a few times a day

**Irrigate little noses with 3-9mL saline per nostril at a time, a few times a day