Cold season takes on a whole new meaning when you have little ones. As soon as babies discover the hand-mouth connection, everything graspable by a tiny, chubby fist is delivered straight past the gums for gnawing, tasting and gleeful, drooly exploration. Then in toddlerhood, they become so fascinated with the holes in their nose that there is a playground-grubby index finger jammed in one nostril semi-permanently. So basically, between birth and kindergarten (and probably beyond), if there is a germ within arm’s reach, it will be shuttled to a facial orifice in an enthusiastic and timely manner.
With a two-year-old in part-time daycare and a young baby at home, this translates to an endless cycle of icky bugs through my family from fall through spring. First the toddler catches a cold at “school” and inevitably sneezes all over everything. Then baby catches it, and shares it cheerfully with the sleep-deprived adults. And as soon as everyone is finally healthy again, it all starts again.
To thwart the spread of germs, we teach and demonstrate cold etiquette (i.e. coughing into shirt sleeves, wiping nose with a tissue, not a palm, etc.), and wash our hands frequently (at minimum before meals and after we come in from play). But is hopeless to expect a young child to remember to suds up before every snack, or to count on their runny-nosed playmates to sneeze into their elbows instead of all over the communal Play-Doh.
So it’s in our personal best interest to maximize the measures we can control for illness prevention. To keep our immune systems in tip-top shape, we do our best to make sure everyone is well rested and properly nourished. We prioritize bedtimes and eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. And a compelling case is emerging for making probiotics part of the daily cold-curbing routine, for little ones as well as grown-ups.
A wealth of evidence already supports the connection between the bacteria living in the gut and immune system function.1 Probiotics are live strains of “good” bacteria taken to improve the balance of this gastrointestinal colony.
A 2015 review of the research on probiotics and upper respiratory infections looked at twelve randomized controlled trials, six of which were in children. It revealed a probable reduction in frequency, duration and severity of infections with probiotic use, plus a possible decrease in the need for antibiotics to be prescribed.2
Children in childcare facilities have up to three times higher risk of respiratory infection, but probiotics could help to reign this in; research has shown a positive effect of friendly bacteria on reducing frequency and severity of respiratory illness specifically in children in daycare settings.3 That’s a persuasive argument for probiotics all around, don’t you think? Let’s nip the family cold cycle in the bud where it starts.
When choosing a probiotic supplement for children, make sure you’re choosing one that is viable, and is in a dose and format appropriate for little ones. Bio-K’s new Bio-Kidz formula fits the bill — it is 100% live probiotic fermented milk in single-servings and yummy flavours, developed specifically for kids. It contains calcium and vitamin D, as an added bonus. In cold season as in everything, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.