Children’s Cold/Flu Season & RSV – a Natural Approach

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) has been making news headlines lately, causing parents a bit more anxiety.  It is a very common self-limiting virus that generally causes mild symptoms in healthy children, but it can lead to bronchitis and pneumonia, especially in children less than 1 year old.

Here are my suggestions if your child gets sick during cold and flu season:


  1. Remove everything from your child’s diet that could be lowering their immune response: most notably this will include dairy food, anything that contains sugar or is a processed carbohydrate (cereal, granola bars, bread, crackers, sweetened yogurt, etc.), and cold foods (raw fruit and food straight from the refrigerator).
  2. Focus on healing, nutritive-rich, warming foods including soups (e.g. carrot-ginger, chicken noodle, mushroom soup, etc.), stews, casseroles, whole grains, and bone broths.  We don’t want to add any extra work to the digestive system, thus avoid cold/raw foods/smoothies to save all the body’s resources for the immune response.  A breakfast example for a sick child: simmer berries (rich in vitamins and antioxidants) on the stove to warm them through and add on top of a bowl of whole-flaked oatmeal.  Once plated, add a bit of unpasteurized honey and a splash of non-dairy milk.
  3. Liquids are very important as dehydration is a common reason a child will end up in the hospital. Have your child drink water and warm tea throughout the day; add a couple drops stevia or monk fruit (natural sweeteners) to it if this helps get your child to drink more fluids. You can create herbal popsicles with fruit juice and one or more teas, which will support hydration and cooling the body down during a fever.  Best teas for children’s immune systems: echinacea, chamomile, lemon balm, rose hips, elderberry, astragalus, licorice root, thyme, usnea, linden flowers, and yarrow.
  4. Feed your child only when they’re hungry.  It is ok if they don’t want to eat or can only handle a few mouthfuls at meal time.  Trust their body and allow their immune system to do what it does best.  Their appetite will return as they finish the course of their illness and then they’ll be playing catch-up time with extra large meal sizes that will “Wow!” even the hungriest of adults.  


*Consult a health care practitioner for dosing for your child based on their age and body weight, but this is an example of a dosing regime I would do for my 5-year-old daughter (~45lb):

  1. Children’s chewable vitamin C – 250mg three times per day (or a product such as Ener-C – ½ packet twice daily).  If your child has loose stools, reduce the dose
  2. Children’s zinc lozenge – 10mg twice daily
  3. Elderberry and echinacea syrup or tincture – -1/2 teaspoon four times daily
  4. Vitamin D – 4 drops daily (4000IU) for a week and then reduce the dose to 1000IU every 1-2 days
  5. Probiotic powder – ¼ teaspoon once daily with food (good quality from a health food store, kept in the fridge)


  • The body has a powerful innate healing force – trust your child’s body and their ability to heal (i.e., keep calm you strong Mom!)
  • Empower yourself with knowledge and trust that you have the ability to support your child’s healing.  You as their caregiver have everything at your disposal to remove impediments to healing and utilize supportive natural therapies.  Doctors (including myself) do not always “know best”, so trust your instincts and your intuition.
  • Turn off or avoid any news (from media/social media) that creates fear in you and causes self-doubt in your ability to manage your child’s viral infection.  Viral infections are normal and natural, and they allow a child’s immune system to mature. They should not be feared; much healing and detoxification happens during an illness, leading to a healthier body after-the-fact. 
  • If your child is immunocompromised (e.g., history of cancer, immunodeficiency, or a genetic condition, etc.) it is best to work with a team, including a pediatrician and naturopathic doctor, prior to the fall/winter flu season.


Use 3-5 drops of one or a combo of essential oils in a 1/2 teaspoon carrier oil (such as coconut or olive oil) and rub it on your child’s chest two to three times daily.  The essential oils of rosemary, lavender, tea tree and yarrow work to promote sweating, which supports the fever process, whereas bergamot, eucalyptus and peppermint work to cool the body, helping to avoid the risk of febrile seizures and dehydration.  


Humidify your child’s bedroom with any of the above-mentioned essential oils.  Note: for children under 2 months of age, the safest essential oils are lavender, chamomile and mandarin.


To support coughs and prevent viral infections going deeper into the lungs, an herbal steam using 1 teaspoon each of loose-leaf chamomile, yarrow and lavender flowers can act as an antiseptic and reduce infection in the respiratory passages. Instructions: boil 2 litres of water in a pot. Once fully boiling, remove from heat and transfer to a large pot or dish (so child doesn’t burn themselves on the pot from the stove).  Add herbs, swirl, and have your child sit and lean over the bowl with a large towel over their head, taking slow, deep breaths over 10-15 minutes.  Can be done once to twice a day.


Fevers increase our body’s temperature which is beneficial to our immune cells as they work best at a slightly elevated temperature. Keep food to a minimum when a child has a fever (unless they have an appetite!) We do not want to suppress a fever unless it gets to a dangerous level.  Danger is when the fever is so high that the child is too lethargic to take in breastmilk or fluids and risks dehydration or if the child is having febrile seizures (although these have not shown to cause lingering brain damage).  A “dangerous” temperature for one child could be 104 degrees, but for another child it could be higher.  Use your wise parental discernment, but do not be afraid of a fever.  Children’s Tylenol is not ideal if you require medication to bring it down – information is coming to light and a number of parents are currently suing Johnson and Johnson claiming Tylenol contributed to the development of their child’s autism, likely through its ability to deplete a major intracellular antioxidant called glutathione.  I suggest using Children’s Advil (AKA Ibuprofen) if you have to choose between the two, but my first suggestion for mitigating a high fever would be to employ a cooling bath, using a sponge or bowl to pour tepid water down your child’s chest and back.  From an herbal perspective, white willow bark is the plant that Aspirin was originally derived from due to its pain-relieving, fever-reducing and antioxidant properties.   You could use this herb in a tea form, combining it with a cooling herb such as peppermint as a natural fever reducer to speed healing from an illness.


If your child has recurring colds or recurring infections (e.g., chest, ear, throat, tonsil/adenoids, urinary, etc.) consider that they may have a dairy sensitivity, a diet that is too high in sugar and/or processed foods, or a nutrient deficiency.  The top nutrient deficiencies in kids are: vitamin D, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin A and vitamin B12.

Good luck Mom & Dad, you’ve got this!