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Welcome! This is the fourteenth post in my vaccine series. You may have missed Getting Serious, 10 Bad Reasons Not to Vaccinate, Why “Science” Should Be Carefully Evaluated, What is Herd Immunity All About, How the Immune System Works, Ingredients in Vaccines Part 1, Ingredients in Vaccines, Part 2, Risk-Benefit Analysis: MMR, Risk-Benefit Analysis: DTaP, Risk-Benefit Analysis: Chicken Pox, Hib, Flu, Risk-Benefit Analysis: Pneumoccocal, Meningococcal and HPV, Risk-Benefit Analysis: Hep A, B and Rotavirus, or What About Alternative Schedules?
Today we’re talking about how to protect unvaccinated children. Although early studies point to unvaccinated kids being healthier in general (and I believe that children whose immune systems are stimulated naturally and not interfered with chemically are generally healthier), there is still some risk involved. We’re going to talk about how to protect your child.
Risks to Unvaccinated Children
A lot of parents don’t like to talk about this, but we must. If you do not vaccinate your child, your child may get measles, mumps, pertussis, or any of these other diseases. (If you do vaccinate, your child still may get them, also.) It’s important to realize that even though your child may be stronger, healthier, more able to fight off disease, etc. (going on anecdotal evidence mostly here), it is still entirely possible for your child to become ill.
That’s why, if you haven’t yet, go back and read each of the risk-benefit analysis posts. It is so important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of each disease. Most are not dangerous — like mumps or rubella — but a few are (diphtheria or tetanus), and the dangerous ones require immediate medical attention. If you believe your child has something that may be dangerous, seek help.
Now, the chances of your child catching most of these things today is not very high, since the diseases don’t really circulate much. And most of them are fine with home treatment and will not result in permanent damage. It’s important to weigh the risks and benefits in your particular situation.
Luckily, there are ways to protect your child.
How to Protect Unvaccinated Children
In a lot of ways, not vaccinating offers its own protection. Children are not exposed to the dangerous ingredients in vaccines. Their immune systems develop naturally as they are challenged by colds and other small illnesses. They have no excess inflammation.
There is more, however, that we can (and should) do for them.
I cannot say enough about the importance of breastfeeding. Breastmilk functions as an immune system for a child who doesn’t yet have one. It is a dynamic food that contains living cells, immunities, stem cells, and many components we don’t even understand. It coats the baby’s gut in IgA, which protects the baby’s immature gut from invading pathogens (and also can prevent sensitizing due to undigested food proteins). When a baby breastfeeds, anything s/he’s been exposed to absorbs into mom’s skin from baby’s saliva. The mom makes antibodies against this to protect the baby and it gets to him/her via breastmilk at later feedings. There is no substitute for this, nothing that will provide this same protection.
Failing to breastfeed, I recommend making a homemade formula. It will not have the same immune benefits but it will offer baby healthy, whole food.
Healthy First Foods
When baby does start solids, choosing healthy, nutrient-dense options is key. This remains true as baby grows. Liver, avocados, egg yolks, plain yogurt, etc. are very healthy. Probiotics should be included (like yogurt, kefir, etc.). These are very important components of the diet. For more on starting babies on foods, including what, when, and how (and handling picky toddlers too), read my book, Breast to Bib.
Fat is a key component of the diet. Coconut oil is a great source of medium-chain fatty acid lauric acid, which has a protective role in the immune system. Mom should consume it while breastfeeding, and baby should consume it when s/he’s eating solids. Grass-fed butter and other sources of saturated fat are also necessary. A large part of baby’s body and brain are made up of saturated fat and cholesterol, so consuming these in the diet will help proper growth and development and boost immune function.
Ideally, consume probiotics in the form of food everyday. This includes things like milk kefir, water kefir, kombucha, yogurt, fermented pickles, other cultured vegetables, etc. Failing this, choose a high-quality probiotic supplement. Probiotics help to boost gut health and can offer a protective effect.
Cod Liver Oil
The one supplement that I recommend across the board is fermented cod liver oil. I know — sounds weird, and it’s expensive. But this is the best source of vitamin D and vitamin A, as well as EPA, DHA, and other healthy components. It boost immune function in a serious and obvious way (this has been our experience). All babies who are getting formula should get a dose daily, and babies who eat solids should too. Breastfed babies should get it via mom. I offer a baby about 1/8 tsp. to start and work up to 1/2 tsp. by 18 months or so. Breastfeeding moms should take 1 tbsp. per day.
Sun exposure is critical to health. Babies should get 15 – 30 minutes per day of midday sun while wearing as little clothing as possible. A diaper is ideal. Even if your baby is very fair-skinned (like mine), s/he should not burn during this amount of time, especially if s/he is consuming a diet with adequate cholesterol and saturated fat. (My kids are the whitest of white…and they can be out for 2+ hours in midday sun with not even a hint of pink.) Midday sun is best, because the UVB rays that create vitamin D in the body are strongest, according to Dr. Mercola, and the UVA rays that can cause damage are weaker. Supplements are not a substitute for sun exposure, because they are not the same form of vitamin D. Sun exposure creates vitamin D sulfate, which is better absorbed and has more functions in the body. Because vitamin D is produced in the oils on the surface of the skin, avoid bathing for a day or two after sun exposure. Babies and young children really don’t need to bathe more than once or twice a week anyway, and typically do not need soap.
There are a variety of herbs and herbal medicines that can boost your child’s immunity. These include echinacea (do not use if allergic to ragweed, and only use if your child has been exposed to something or is ill. It is not effective after two weeks), elderberry syrup, and others. I have several home remedies here, and Trilight Health also makes some.
Be careful when exposing your young child to the public. Very tiny babies should be kept at home as much as possible and worn close to your body while out, to discourage any strangers poking the baby in the face. If there is an outbreak of a particular disease, keep your children home, especially if they are young or there is a young sibling in the house. If you believe you have been exposed to something, stay home until you know if you are sick or not if at all possible (some things have a long incubation period). If you get sick, stay home. I do believe it our responsibility to society not to go out when we know we are ill and could spread illness! And that goes for everyone, vaccinated or not!
Use Essential Oils
Some people swear by essential oils like tea tree, cinnamon, peppermint, oregano, and others which are antibacterial and antiviral. These can be mixed with a carrier oil (always do this) and applied to your skin, or put in a diffuser and allowed to mist the room. Some people swear that by doing these two things, they can avoid a lot of illness. A diffuser is probably most useful for a baby, as you don’t want to use essential oils on their skin unless absolutely necessary, even diluted.
Allow Minor Illnesses
Your children learn to fight off “the big stuff” by fighting off the small stuff. Let them get colds and stomach viruses and other minor illnesses. They’re not fun, but they train your child’s system how to handle future illnesses. You’ll probably find as your child gets older, s/he gets sick less and less.
Things to Watch Out For
In addition to doing these things to protect your children, there are some things you don’t want to do.
Tylenol is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. It depletes glutathione in the body, which is an essential amino acid that is necessary to fight off illness. Avoid Tylenol if at all possible and look for other remedies for pain. You don’t need fever reducers.
Some food additives can reduce immunity, too. Especially in times of illness, make sure your diet is as clean as possible. Lots of fat, bone broth, fruits and vegetables, etc. Avoid packaged foods.
Indoor Play Areas
These can, unfortunately, be breeding grounds for germs because lots of parents bring their kids sick. Especially if you have a tiny one, skip them!
Do.not.do.it. If you must, find one based on essential oils. The alcohol-based ones kill all the good and bad bacteria, which is no good for your gut health (reducing your immunity), and they’re not as effective at killing the “bad guys” as real soap and water. Find a sink and wash your hands the right way, and have your kids wash theirs too, especially after playing on a playground or before eating.
Watch Live Vaccines
If you know someone who has just gotten a live virus vaccine, you may choose to wait awhile before being around them, especially if you have a tiny baby or someone who is in fragile health. These vaccines can and occasionally do shed, which could make your child ill.
With these tips, and your own parenting instincts, you can protect your children from the worst complications of illnesses, even if you can’t (and honestly shouldn’t) protect them from everything.
It is not magic. It is not wishful thinking. Although vaccine proponents would have you believe that vaccines are the only way to stay healthy, this is simply not true. Illness and especially serious illness is caused or exacerbated by vitamin deficiencies and other testable issues within the body. If you use healthy foods to keep the body from deficiency, then you can have optimal immune function and a lowered likelihood of illness or problems.
(That line of thinking probably bothers me the most…that if you believe you can keep your child healthy with a good diet that you are just “believing in magic” or something. It’s pretty easy. You can test to see if a child has a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Those who do, especially magnesium, vitamin A, and vitamin D are at greater risk of complications. If you feed your child a healthy diet so that these deficiencies do not occur, then your child will be less susceptible. It’s science, people, not magic!)