Has your child caught the ‘Back to School Bug’? ~ Dr. Brandy Strelec, ND


Here are seven tips on how to prevent the ‘Back to School Bug’

Now that school is back in session, there is no doubt we will soon see an influx of colds and flus and other infections. In reality, it is so much easier to prevent illness than spend time on visits to the doctor’s office and go through endless rounds of antibiotics that often don’t work anyway. Of course, we can’t prevent every cold or flu bug from making us ill, but naturally protecting and boosting the immune system in one surefire way to strengthen our body’s defenses against those common germs.

While a lot of kids don’t need much more than whole foods, play, and love to be healthy all year, some kids are prone to colds, sore throats and strep, coughs, ear infections, sinus infections, and flu, making their fall and winter — and yours, a lot tougher than it has to be. It can sometimes even be downright miserable with missed school, missed special events, and missed work for you. Also, feeling sick is a bummer for your kids, and it’s stressful as a parent whenever our kids don’t feel well.

Further, in young children, over-the-counter and prescription cold medications have been a leading cause of adverse events and even deaths. We need safe, gentle options for preventing illnesses, so we don’t have to reach for potentially harmful medications unless absolutely necessary.

If your little one happens to be one of those who gets sick more often than you’d like, or if you just want to do some immune boosting, here are my top seven most effective cold and flu prevention recommendations for kids. Immune boosting doesn’t just happen over night, so you can start doing these things now, and then safely continue throughout cold and flu season (fall and into late winter/early spring), to boost optimal immunity, ward off illness, and keep your child healthy all year. These tips have good quality scientific evidence behind them, are affordable, safe, and you’ll be happy with the results!

  1. Tweak the diet

Here are the dietary changes that can keep your kids healthy all fall and winter, at any age, by removing the foods that block immunity, and upping the game on those that boost immunity:

    • Eliminate most sugar, and all fruit juice (homemade veggie juice with some fruit is okay a few times per week) and all pop.
    • Eliminate most dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) if it tends to make your child get congested or phlegmy.
    • Increase leafy green veggies (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens) and fresh or frozen berries (organic blueberries, organic strawberries), and make sure your child is getting 2 servings of veggies or fresh fruit at each meal.
    • Make sure you child is getting high quality protein (beans, lean meats, fish, poultry) and high quality fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado) at each meal.


      1. Give Zinc daily

Zinc is an immune boosting mineral found in oysters, beef, and lamb, and to a lesser degree in pumpkin seeds, cashews, and beans. Taken daily for up to 5 months, zinc reduces the likelihood of viral infections, especially colds, absences from school, and antibiotic use in kids. It can easily be given as a flavored lozenge to older kids; for younger children try a liquid.

An easy way to tell if your child is deficient is to check their fingernails for white spots in them, and check yours while you’re at it! If visible, you are likely zinc deficient.

      1. Give Vitamin C daily

A review by the Cochrane Collaboration, a major medical data review group, showed a 13% decrease in cold symptoms in children who took one gram (1000 mg) of vitamin C daily for prevention. The form and dose are “buffered ascorbic acid,” 250-500 milligrams 3 times a day, given with meals. As a bonus, if your child is prone to constipation, it can help this too.

      1. Give a Probiotic daily

Probiotics, especially lactobacillus taken alone or with bifidobacter – which is another species – during the winter has been shown to reduce daycare absences because of fewer colds, and it reduces the incidence of fever, cough, runny nose, and the use of antibiotics. Many brands come in tasty chewables or liquids, just be sure that they don’t have added sugar for taste, as this will likely prolong the infection if it does occur.

      1. Give Vitamin D3+K2 daily

Vitamin D can help support the immune system and is important for overall health. We tend to get less of it in the winter because we’re indoors so much more, and the sun is a major source, so I recommend supplementing starting in September. All babies 1 year old and under should get vitamin D supplementation regardless of time of year. You should also be sure that your vitamin D is supplemented along with Vitamin K2 to ensure proper absorption.

      1. Use a Saline Rinse twice weekly

Using a nasal saline rinse has been shown to reduce respiratory infections in kids significantly. It’s tough with young babies, but kids over 4 can give it a try, and it’s something older kids can get the hang of. You can purchase nasal-ready kits at the local pharmacy, or a neti pot. I don’t recommend adding any herbs — just use the recommended saline solution. Use the rinse 2-3 times each week.

      1. Give Gentle Herbal Remedies

What are some of the herbs you can use daily for cold prevention in kids? At our office we recommend:

      • Echinacea has been shown to support the immune system, prevent the frequency of upper respiratory infections and bronchitis, and also prevent secondary infections, so preventing infections from turning into more entrenched bacterial infections.

Another herbal medicine called Andrographis has also been shown to boost immunity and reduce the frequency of upper respiratory infections, and also help to shorten their duration when they do happen. If your child is really adventurous, and can appreciate that sometimes when things taste bad, they can actually be good for you, then see if they will try Oregano Oil. It’s amazing stuff, and if I can steal from an ever-popular commercial from the 80’s “it tastes awful, but it works”!

On a final note, don’t forget the real basic recommendation of getting outside and playing with dirt! We need to increase the diversity of bacteria in the digestive tract, and spending time playing outside, without the use of antimicrobials-exposing ourselves and our kids to these microbes in dirt, has been proven to “train the immune system” to know what the body needs protection from (as written in the 2009 article in the New York Times). It’s time to get outside, take in the fresh Muskoka air, and maybe, just maybe- roll around in the beautiful fallen leafs and play in dirt!


Dr. Brandy Strelec, ND has always had a passion for health, which led her to focus on assisting patients in their achievement of optimal health by assessing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspect of health and addressing the underlying core of their health concerns. She develops individualized treatment plans and educates patients about their health while encouraging them to take an active role in their own health care.
As a licensed and registered Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Strelec utilizes her strong background in Nutrition, Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine, Lifestyle counseling, Botanical Medicine, Homeopathy and Physical Medicine to assist her patients in attaining their treatment goals. She has a wealth of experience in dealing with hormone imbalances and digestive disorders. She has special interests in women’s health, chronic stress and fatigue-related issues, digestive health issues, heart disease, diabetes, pain management, fertility, and pediatrics. She has also designed specific programs dealing with weight management, detoxification, healthy aging and stress reduction. Brandy also brings her experience as a Bowen practitioner to add options for additional, individualized care for pain management.