Remember when it used to be ok to cough ...
With 4 kiddo’s between the ages of 2 and 11, I just wait for the attention that comes in a public place when one of my kids inevitably needs to cough, sneeze or sniffle. 😳 But this is not a blog on adult anxiety. 😉
Of course, so much has changed over the past 2 and half years that a cough is now socially more intimidating...And not just from the “germ” 🦠 aspect. For parents it means kids having to stay home from school, missing a game or concert, or even having to miss work yourself.
But while the public perception has changed, the immune system hasn’t.
So if your kids struggle with chronic coughs, allergies 🤧, sore throats, or infections during the fall 🍁 and winter ❄️, I know this year is exceptionally hard.
That’s why I wanted to write this blog, heavy with science and immune principles to help parents with 2 main things.
And while this blog certainly isn’t a quick fix, let me tell you from experience that conquering the struggle now WILL make a huge difference the NEXT season when your family commonly struggles.
First, let’s dig in and look at the immune system a bit deeper, and see how the body really is designed to deal with bacteria, viruses, and germs on a daily basis.
Here's a regular day with kids - they constantly are touching, hugging, and eating everything they can get their hands on! You're pushing them in the cart down the aisle at Target 🎯, and while you're looking 👀 at the latest JoJo Siwa hair bow... you look back down and they are licking the shopping cart 🛒 or chewing on your purse straps! 😂
While this happens on the outside and us germophobic parents freak out, on the inside their brain 🧠, nervous system, and immune system simply go to work doing what they were designed to do with germs 🦠 - recognize them and remove them.
Did you know that germs, viruses, and pathogens far outnumber us by the trillions? I know, not always the most fun thought... but it's important we know what we're up against so that we can build up our children's defense instead of break it down.
Here’s the beautiful thing, the body is smart and no matter what it's up against it knows to respond in 2️⃣ different ways, according to its programming.
The first option is what's called the fight-or-flight sympathetic response 😬. This is when the system is busy and overwhelmed. Busy in life, busy with stress, just plain busy! And when the body is busy, it doesn’t have time to focus on what’s coming at it, especially with germs 🦠!
So instead it makes a decision to suppress it and ignore it.
A child whose nervous system is under a constant state of this sympathetic stress literally doesn't have the "time and energy" to "deal with" the immune response required... so it stuffs it down and suppresses it.
Think of this as similar to when you tell your child to clean their room, and they simply stuff all the clothes and toys 🧸 into their closet or under their bed! It "looks clean" but it's anything but.
The second option your child's body has is a parasympathetic response. Often called the "rest and digest" side of the nervous system. What we now know about this side of the nervous system, is it also controls and regulates the body's immune defense in an intelligent, coordinated, and mindful way.
It wants to find out what’s wrong, study it, build a defense and attack it. This side also then “expresses” it... meaning, it "kicks out" what's not supposed to be in there!!! Exactly what we want!
Here’s the counter-intuitive nature of these two sides. The side that coordinates the better long-term response (the parasympathetic) is more expressive and therefore more symptoms follow. With an expressive response you often see the stuffy nose, 🤧, cough, or fever 🤒 in the short term…but that’s the key. The short term!
The body fights, kicks it out, learns to kick it out when it is exposed to it, the next time your kiddo licks the cart 🛒 (ok last time using that analogy)! This side of the immune system must be in perfect balance and function, so it can help BUILD long-term health as well as handle the short-term response.