It is such a challenging time and we are naturally concerned about the strength of our immune response. You may know that our immune system is incredibly complex and expansive, and many internal and external factors can influence its overall function.
Consequently, when I am treating immune-related conditions I consider it essential to take a thorough case history, chronicling significant events preceding the current situation, including any previous history of:
- seasonal allergies
- seasonal infections
- immunity trends, i.e. where in the body do these infections happen
- environmental load (home and work)
- emotional health
Disease can occur when the immune system is under-active or over-active. Immuno- deficiency, or an under-active immune system, can result in frequent infections like colds or the flu. We are constantly in contact with a wide variety of bacteria and viruses that can cause infection. The strength of our immune system makes the difference in those people who are sick all the time and those who seldom become unwell.
Prevention is Key
Nourishing and supporting our immune system during this time of year reduces our risk of falling victim to winter ailments. However, if we do become ill, the nourishment given can help our body get rid of an illness much faster.
The immune system doesn’t just help us fight off colds and flu, it also protects us from viruses such as chicken pox and mumps, and from harmful bacteria like e-coli and other forms of bacteria that can cause ear infections, meningitis and tonsillitis.
Our natural immunity is lowered by physical or emotional stress, overworking or overplaying, poor diet, toxins, smoking and drinking excess alcohol.
- Healthy lifestyle
- Take time to recover from daily stresses
- Practise self-care
- Eat a balanced diet (organic, plant-based, good oils, high quality protein)
- Avoid sugar
- Wash your hands with real soap before touching your nose, eyes etc. A healthy immune system can generally repel viruses, but this becomes more difficult if you carry them straight to your mucous membranes
- If you have pre-existing conditions or are on any medication, consider seeing a medical herbalist to address any imbalances. Daily herbal tonics can go a long way in strengthening body and mind.
When illness does happen
- Even with the best prevention strategies, illness happens
- Get rest and use calming herbs such as chamomile, linden and valerian – choose these suited to your constitution. My personal favourites are skullcap and wood betony.
- Create a healthy atmosphere with aromatherapy (lavender, lemon balm etc), but please never use essential oils internally.
- Choose herbs such as elderberry and echinacea to treat the infection. Stronger herbs such as boneset can be prescribed when needed.
- Use specific herbs and foods to help ease symptoms such as onion, garlic, thyme, sage, rosemary etc.
- Rebuild your vitality and prevent secondary illnesses
- Don’t jump back into life too quickly once symptoms ease
- Allow your body the time and support it needs in rebuilding your health.
- The best way to prevent relapses or secondary illnesses is through adequate rest, suitable herbal treatment and healthful nutrition, as well as avoiding stressful events as much as possible.
Mild fever support
Our normal body temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius, but may be slightly higher or lower depending on the individual. Onset of fever is commonly due to the immune system’s response to a bacterial or viral infection, and in many cases resolves quickly without intervention.
Ways to manage a mild fever at home
- keep well hydrated (water, electrolytes, herbal teas
- keep comfortable with loose clothing and light layers of blankets
- use common diaphoretic herbs such as yarrow, elderflower, mint, chamomile and linden.
Childhood and infant fevers
Children’s immune systems develop in response to common infections and the presence of a fever can be a normal aspect of this process. However, any fever in a child under 3 months of age should be assessed by a medical practitioner immediately.
Urgent medical advice should also be sought if a child under 12 months of age presents with a fever in order to determine the cause and provide appropriate treatment.
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