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Why Everyone Is Getting Sick All the Time (and What You Can Do About It)

Written by Meghan Rhodes MCPP MAPA

At the moment, pretty much everyone with a toddler or young child is saying the same thing - 'I've never been so sick! It's like one thing after another! Is this ever going to end?!'

Our children are constantly getting colds, which are lovingly passed on to us parents, and the staff of nurseries and schools are being effected just as badly. How many days of childcare or school has your child missed this year? How much time have you had to take off work to care for them (or try in vain to work around caring for them), whilst most likely being ill yourself with no one to take care of you? And how many times have you received that email or or message from where your child would be if they were well - 'We're so sorry, but your teacher is unwell and there's no one to run the class,' or 'All of our staff are ill, so we have to close today. Please accept our sincere apologies.'?

It feels like an unbreakable, self-perpetuating cycle. It's extremely frustrating, and everyone is pretty much sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time.

Full disclosure - this is my household, too!

So what's going on and what can we do about it?

herbs and spices on a wooden table top with mortar, pestle and scales

Children have always caught lots of colds to build up their immune systems, but not like this...

It's true - young children build up their immune systems by getting sick. It's how they build up antibodies, how their bodies learn to mount a healthy and effective fever and how they ultimately become more resilient to other pathogens they may get exposed to as they get older (which is one of the many reasons it's so important to support children naturally through their childhood illnesses, rather than suppressing their immune systems with paracetamol in sugar syrup form - you know what pink stuff I'm talking about). And as loving parents, we've always been at the receiving end of what our little ones bring home from nursery or school. Call it a rite of passage for a young family.

It's completely normal. But not like this.

In the years when we weren't mixing as a wider society, we weren't getting exposed to all the regular bugs we usually did at various seasons and stages. Our immune systems didn't have to flex their muscles as regularly, and so to put it in very real world terms, they got a bit flabby. But whilst our immune systems were losing their tone, the pathogens, the viruses, the seasonal bugs were training hard - they were evolving and getting more robust.

We have emerged, then, from isolation with our not-in-peak-condition immune systems to face pathogens that are ready to run ultramarathons.

It is not an even playing field anymore.

This is why illnesses are happening more frequently, lasting longer, hitting one after the other and feeling more intense than ever, even if you're the sort of person (myself included) who historically 'never gets sick' and maybe catches a cold one a year or once every few years.

And this is why it is so important we support ourselves with everything we can - knowledge, personal power, nature and nourishment - to maintain our resilience as we move through this gauntlet and eventually come out the other side stronger and wiser.

Here's what you can do about it:

1. Keep yourself well nourished as much as possible.

If ever there was a time to really make an effort on eating nourishing, whole, unprocessed, organic foods, now is the time. This will keep your body topped up with the reserves it needs to have the energy to address infections. If you're running on borrowed energy from caffeine, sugar, etc., your body won't have what it needs to get on top of an illness, so it will drag on.

When I say nourishing foods, I'm not talking about specialist seeds or fancy supplements. I'm talking about basic organic ingredients loaded with antimicrobial culinary herbs and spices that you can eat regularly, whether you're actively fighting an infection or not.

The most basic example is a classic Sunday roast. Start with an organic whole chicken with leafy green veg. Then use that cooked meat over the coming days however you like - in a bowl of warm cooked grains with beans and other garnishes, stirred into a pasta with lots of crushed garlic (one of the best antivirals and probiotics out there) and lemon. When you've finished the meat, pop the carcass in a big pot with filtered water, a bit of sea salt and pepper and simmer it for at least three hours, keeping an eye on the water to make bone broth. Strain and freeze in cubes to pop into a mug with boiling water each morning, as well as to make soups full of a range of veggies and beans. Always with lots of culinary herbs and spices, as they're nearly all antimicrobial/antiviral/antibiotic and make things tasty - sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, clove, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, cumin - get into that spice cupboard!!

If you've never had bone broth before and the thought of it is a bit odd for you, think of it as a liquid Sunday roast.

If you're the type of person with whom gluten or dairy doesn't agree with, but you eat it anyway, take a break from it for now. It's only spiking ongoing inflammation in your body, which is counterproductive when your body needs to make the most of its inflammatory processes to do what they're designed to do - address infection in the body.

2. Get as much good quality rest and fresh air as possible.

Having a toddler, myself, I know this is often easier said than done. But when you can get it, take it. It's tempting to decompress from a full on day parked in front of the TV for a few hours, but if your child is asleep and you're exhausted - take yourself to bed and get that sleep! I promise you nothing on TV is so interesting it's worth losing sleep over, especially when everything is genuinely available on demand at any time.

And when it comes to fresh air, yes, many of us are expected to be in an office or otherwise inside working for most of the day. So open your windows (or crack them if it's cold out and wear a thermal under layer or pop a hot water bottle and blanket on your lap - especially if you're working from home). I know there's often that push/pull relationship between wanting fresh air, wanting to be warm, not wanting to turn up the heat and not letting the heat escape when it's on (especially when it's expensive). So at a minimum, crack the windows for a few minutes a day across the course of the day, perhaps when you get up to make yourself a hot a drink or get some water.

3. Understand basic illnesses, what's happening in the body and how to support yourself or your child through it.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial to have the basic knowledge of common illnesses and how to support your body in navigating them. I've written multiple articles on these topics, which I add to regularly for members of my Members' Apothecary You can read them here:

I've also recorded quite a few short videos on multiple common health topics here, including how to get children to take herbs and traditional cold remedies.

If you like to have a reference book to hand at home, I highly recommend my mentor, Anne McIntyre's, brilliant book on the Herbal Treatment of Children. It's the main reference I use. *N.B. I do earn a small commission on purchases via this link.

4. Use your herbs.

Have your herbs and herbal remedies somewhere you can easily access and use them. Whether it's a dedicated shelf in the kitchen or a traditional medicine cabinet, have them all in one place, topped up and ready to go. And if you're unsure where to get reliable natural alternatives to the classic chemical-laden over the counter medications that silence our bodies, rather than support us through them, this is exactly what I offer in The Members' Apothecary. It's full of herbal remedies I've formulated combining my knowledge and expertise as a qualified medical herbalist and as a mum of a toddler who brings all sorts home from nursery, just like every other child. These are the remedies we have to hand in our home, so when something crops up, these are the blends I use.

There's a wide range of remedies available to members, from blends for stress, to mixes for digestion and women's cycles, but the ones you'll find in the membership that are specifically helpful for the deluge of colds so many of us are going through include:

  • Old Friend - named by my husband for the close personal relationship we have as a family with this blend, it's a tincture blend that is our go to for most colds. It has an upper respiratory infection bent to it and it suitable for use from 6 months through adulthood. This is the one that goes into almost every members' herbal medicine cabinet, because it has so many uses.

  • Healthy Fever - tincture and tea options. Tincture suitable from 6 months up, tea suitable for infants and older.

  • Cough Calming tincture blend

  • Throat Soothing tea blend

  • Just Breathe balm and soaking salts - two of my personal favourites, because being stuffed up drives me nuts

  • Stomach Bug tincture blend

  • Chicken Pox, Shingles & Cold Sore tincture blend and topical slow-infused herbal oil

  • Aspirin Alternative tincture blend

Build your resilience

Now is the time to get proactive. Not just so you and your family can move through this gauntlet of illnesses, but so that you can all come through it stronger. Now is not the time to be complacent - to take the symptom-numbing pills that suppress immune systems from doing their jobs, to pop a ready meal in the oven because it's easier and you're exhausted.

And remember, when the colds keep coming, this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, let's all take care.


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