Whilst we all know we need to lower our reliance on antibiotics, knowing what to do when our kids are sick can be difficult. In our house, antibiotics are considered a last resort. With three children - aged 10, eight, and six - we have journeyed through many a childhood illness, yet have avoided antibiotics thus far. I prefer to use the power of nature’s antibiotics to help alleviate symptoms and speed healing. The benefits are numerous:
1. Protecting the future of medicine requires us to dramatically reduce antibiotic use NOW. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a real threat to our health, and we all have a personal responsibility to avoid antibiotic use unless there is a genuine clinical need. 
2. Using natural remedies will help protect the essential gut bacteria, which is damaged by antibiotic use. Strong gut health is your first line of defence against illness.
3. Learning to trust our powerful immune systems is reassuring. Using natural remedies for common ailments allows our immune systems to flourish.
Over the years, I have tried and tested many natural remedies for common childhood illnesses. Here are my favourites:
Note: if you are worried about any symptoms your child is suffering, it is always wise to check with your GP.
Coughs and chest infections: onion poultice
I have found onion poultices to be incredibly useful for speeding the passage of a chest infection. With one mildly asthmatic child, this is particularly important in my house. An onion poultice uses the excellent antibacterial and antiviral properties of onions to help ease inflammation, kill the infection, loosen phlegm, and ease tight, restrictive breathing.
Directions: slice one organic onion into small chunks, and microwave for 30 seconds (or steam for a few minutes until the onions soften slightly). Place into the centre of a tea towel, and wrap up the onions burrito-style, creating a square shape with the towel. Checking that the poultice isn’t too hot, place onto the child’s chest or upper back (between shoulder blades) for 20 minutes. Repeat three times daily during a chest infection. Use a fresh onion each time.
Ear infections: Garlic oil
Similar to onion, garlic is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent that also helps alleviate pain and inflammation. Using olive oil and garlic is very soothing and gentle, and can rapidly help ease the pain and discomfort of childhood ear infections. Note: do not use if you suspect a perforated ear drum (which will be indicated by discharge from the ear, and relief from pain).
Directions: finely slice one clove of garlic, and add to a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and let sit for a few minutes. Using a pipette or small plastic medicine syringe, draw up a few ml of the oil, and submerge the pipette/syringe in hot water to gently heat the oil. With the child lying on their side, affected ear up, and checking the oil is nicely warm and not too hot first; drop 1-2 drops of oil into the ear. The child should lie on their side for 10 minutes, and you can gently massage the ear to help move the oil down to the infected area. Repeat twice daily as needed.
Vomiting bug: Homeopathic Nux Vom and Arsenicum
The two homeopathic remedies you will always find in my cupboard are Nux Vom and Arsenicum. When the vomiting bug strikes, take one pill of each remedy. Then, add one pill of each remedy to a bottle of water, shake vigorously, and sip throughout the day. Symptoms should generally resolve with a few hours.
Sore throats: Colloidal silver
A medicine cupboard staple for me is Colloidal Silver or NanoSilver. Silver is a well-known and very powerful antibiotic and antiviral agent. Colloidal Silver uses nanoparticles of silver, delivered in a pleasant water-like liquid spray that can be used internally for short periods of time, just like an antibiotic. However, unlike antibiotics, pathogens cannot develop a resistance to silver. Traditional antibiotics suppress the activity of bacteria but don’t necessarily kill them, whereas silver enters the cell of a bacteria, instantly destroying them. In fact, medics are starting to use silver alongside antibiotics to boost their effectivity. The power of silver means that it should only be used for a short duration (maximum 10 days), and select a high-quality spray, such as Sovereign Silver.
Directions: at the first sign of a sore throat, use five sprays into the mouth, aiming for the throat area. Repeat three times daily until symptoms recede. Do not use for long periods of time. Silver should not be used as a preventative but for acute symptoms only.
Fiona O’Farrell is an acupuncturist and natural health therapist running a busy clinic in Greystones. Co. Wicklow. For more information see www.fionaofarrellacupuncture.com or www.facebook.com/fionaofarrellacupuncture
Natural Health Therapist