Photo Credit: Mi Pham,

When my daughter was younger, she’d panic in the bathtub if she had a scrape on the knee — since she didn’t want soap or water on it. A quite typical reaction from a small, school-age child. I used to tell her that the soldiers in her body really liked soap and water, because it helped them heal the scrape. Then she was fine hopping into the bathtub (even though it hurt a bit).

Today, children are taught that if they get close to a child with a virus or don’t wash their hands they’ll get sick. As a nurse, I know for a fact that there’s a low to non-existing focus on the fact that we have an immune system and what we can do to help it out with fighting viruses, healing wounds, and the like. Our bodies already know what to do.

In our family it’s a normal, weekly conversation as to what the little soldiers liked or didn’t like. Did they like sugar or milk? Did they like a lack of sleep or not? How much water did they need? Were they more energetic with bad moods or good moods? Laughter or sadness?

All this explained to my daughter the idea that there was a part of her body that already knew how to get her better, and all she had to do was help out.

That also meant that she felt like an active participant in the matter and not as the random victim to germs.

Now, I’m not saying that washing your hands or staying away from sick people doesn’t help in the matter, but helping your children learn that they have the power within already empowers them. My desire is that the medical community would begin putting more focus on this.

So, here’s what the soldiers like and don’t like (just in case you were wondering):

The Soldiers Like:

  • Laughter
  • Lots of water
  • Feeling love – such as playing with your pet
  • Being with good friends
  • Eating foods that give you energy, such as fruits and vegetables
  • Enough sleep
  • Feeling loved and connected
  • Sunshine
  • Fever
  • Optimism
  • Music
  • Touch and hugs

The Soldiers Don’t Like:

  • Worry
  • Stress
  • Lack of water
  • Sugar, in any shape or form
  • Lack of sleep
  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Energy-robbing foods
  • Pessimism

At my house, my kids know that if they get sick, it’s because they were stressed, didn’t get enough sleep, ate too much junk food and sugar, etc. To get better, they know they have to sleep, not eat sugar, eat lots of fruit, drink lots of water, and receive love by me taking care of them. They also know that they need to practice self-care by listening to what their body needs, such as rest.

A common misconception I’ve encountered in my many years as a pediatric nurse is the fact that most families think that fever’s a bad thing that needs to be treated.

When our immune system encounters a bacteria or virus, it starts a cascade of cool reactions. Among many, the metabolism increases in order to make a fever. The fever slows down the intruders (bacteria and virus) and boosts the body’s production of immune system fighter cells. The fever’s a great tool for our immune system to “win the battle,” so to speak.

That being said, fever can also make us dehydrated. Adults will remember to drink enough fluids because they know they have to, but children are sometimes difficult to convince.

Unless you have a child with a tendency towards febrile seizures or in lots of pain or discomfort, this is the only reason you’d have to medicate the fever.

If you give a child fever medication, many times they’ll start feeling better. This means they run around and not get rest, which is needed for healing.

Regardless of your diet regime and convictions, eating lots of fruits and vegetables will give your child many of the vitamins needed for the immune system to be healthy, whereas sugar tends to stress the immune system out and impair the function of the little soldiers (fighter cells).

With regards to water consumption and needs, the following article from Eat Right may be helpful.

When it comes to how much sleep your child needs, the following link from the Sleep foundation may be helpful.

In the book, Feeling Good is Good for You, the authors Carl J. Charnetski Ph.D. and Francis X. Brennan Ph.D. uncover how research has shown a strong connection between your emotional state and the function of your immune system. Their breakthrough research supports the notion that everyday pleasures cause a measurable increase in your body’s ability to fight disease and their book reveals a 13-step pleasure formula for supercharging your immune system.

Pretty amazing, I’d say, that we can now teach our kids that enjoying life and having strong relationships is actually good for our health, along with eating well, practicing self-care, and washing our hands.

Photo Credit: Mi Pham,