The end of summer is coming quickly, which means the start of school is just around the corner. This year is going to be a very unique school year, to say the least. With all the shifts and unknowns that lay ahead, there’s one thing that’s on the minds of every parent, caregiver  and teacher; ‘will my child be safe, and what can I do to ensure they don’t get sick?’. With the regular and expected colds and flus, now mixed within the current pandemic, its anybody’s guess as to how the upcoming weeks and months will look. So rather than simply crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, read on to reveal how and why giving your kids more germs before school is one of the best things you can do.


Exposure is key


With social isolation, masks, and diligent sanitization being the new norm, we are all doing everything we can to ensure our kids don’t get sick. The upside to this is, of course, reducing the bad germs that have the potential to make your child sick. The potential downside however, is that with every pump of the hand sanitizer, our supportive, healthy ‘good’ bacteria are also being wiped out. Commensal bacteria, which are the bacteria in and on our bodies that actually work in tandem to support our healthy immune systems, can slowly begin to become wiped out the more and more we sanitize. Overall, this is a trade off that helps ensure we’re reducing the possibility of our kids getting sick, however to some extent, exposing our kids to both good and ‘bad’ gems definitely requires a delicate balance. The more we sanitize and keep our kids away from one another, the less opportunity each have to come in contact low doses of viruses and germs that ultimately won’t make them sick, but rather help prime their immune systems for future levels and exposures to germs that do have the potential to make them sick. Although I fully support our current public health measures (let me clearly state this!), we also need to simultaneously consider optimal ways of continuing to preventatively strengthen our kids’ immune systems at the same time. Avoidance of harmful germs of course is key, however there are still other ways to naturally keep your kids healthy while working within the balance of healthy germ exposure.


Keep your gut bacteria healthy  


When your child comes in contact with a germ potent enough to cause infection, there’s enough evidence to show that gut health and bacteria both play a primary roll. Let’s say that your child touches an infected surface with his/her hand at school, then touches his/her mouth to ultimately catch a cold or virus. Although this virus can cause direct infective impacts on respiratory tissue like the lungs or respiratory tract, it’s been shown that gut bacteria is also directly affected and altered. Bacteria located in the gut directly influence the entire immune system and will actually stimulate it enough to fight the virus that has just infected your child. So although limiting your child’s exposure to harmful viruses and germs is key, so is simultaneously supporting a healthy internal gut microbiome. Some may say “well if we continue disinfecting surfaces and hands, there won’t be any germs for my child to touch”. Yes, theoretically this is true, however don’t forget that we need germs and bacteria of all sorts from our outside world (good and bad) to help keep ourselves and our kids healthy over the course of both the short and long term haul. When it comes to keeping your child healthy, a few methods that can help build a healthy gut and immune system include ensuring proper sleep, consuming fruits and vegetables, adding in regular doses of healthy fats, and considering a probiotic that properly suits your child’s needs. All of this will provide anti inflammatory gut support, prebiotic nutrition for your gut bacteria, and ultimately a proper balance of the ‘good’ bacteria to encourage immune strength and a reduced chance of your child getting sick. 


Your child rely’s on viruses to keep them healthy


I’m not saying pandemic sized viruses are needed to keep your child healthy, nor am I stating that it’s necessary to contract such an illness to remain healthy over the long term. What I am saying, however, is that the innumerable germs and viruses that are constantly present both in the air and on surfaces all around you, are the exact ones that have essentially helped shape the good health of your child today. It’s well known that the complexity of the immune system needs to constantly interact with the germs and viruses all around. So for your child, this means controlled and safe interaction with what nature has provided in order to help keep your child safe. It’s kind of like the theory that small doses of something harmful won’t hurt you, and in fact minute exposures over time can actually help make you stronger. Nature has this innate wisdom to support life and create balance in our world, so an effective way to keep your child healthy is to understand that he/she is constantly coming into contact with hundreds (if not more) viruses and forms of germs each and every day. With the massive avoidance that’s essential now in the face of our current pandemic however, although safe and useful, these practices are also limiting our exposure to this natural and necessary health support system. 


Steps to help support your child’s health before school starts:


Keep your child active 

Spend as much time outdoors as possible (nature is best)

Let your kids get dirty (playing in dirt, lakes and oceans, playing with bugs, jumping in leaves, hiking, climbing trees and exploring nature all directly support your child’s health)

Follow public health guidelines, while simultaneously considering how over-sanitization can impact balanced health

Have your child consume healthy foods while limiting immune suppressing foods such as sugar and processed food

Ensure your child (teens included) sleep adequately over a 24hr period 

Consider a healthy probiotic

Look into the immune benefits of Vitamin D

Ask your naturopathic doctor about the safety and benefits of an herbal immune support

Worry less while keeping your kids safe and giving them the opportunity to be kids and have fun!  


Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.