Combating stress helps strengthen the immune system of the child
The season of colds begins with the stress of going back to school
Returning to school in the autumn brings with it the usual seasonal colds and viruses. Schools, parks and other social spaces become hotbeds of infection where many parents watch helplessly as their little ones succumb to colds, flu, gastroenteritis and other random viral infections.
We are accustomed to associating the change in temperature that occurs in this season with the source of colds and flus, but although the cold is a factor that facilitates infection is not the only factor nor is it the trigger. Viruses do not disappear in the summer and reappear in the winter, but they are in fact there all year just waiting until our defenses are down.
The imbalance of the immune system is due to several factors, including some that we pay little attention to such as nutrition, changing habits and above all, according to various studies, stress.
Stress affects the immune system
The autonomous nervous system consists of the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The former is responsible for accelerating the heart, breathing, muscle tension and blood pressure as a physical response in an emergency situation. In contrast, the parasympathetic ‘brake’ system makes the body return to its normal state. If this mechanism does not work effectively, stress starts to build.
Prolonged activation of the nervous and endocrine systems tends to produce negative effects on the immune system, according to John Sheridan, a professor at the University of Ohio (USA) and author of some of the largest studies into the effects of stress on the immune system.
Therefore, for stronger immunity to illness, it is vital that our nervous system is well-balanced. This will allow for unimpeded communication between that the brain and the immune system, enabling the body to respond better to stress.
Back to School and stress
After a summer of fun and entertainment the child suffers an emotional shock on returning to school. This reaction is due to the change in environment as the child adjusts to not spending most of the day with the family. Also, everything changes pace; there is a lot more rushing around and homework etc. needs to be done.
If the child finds it particularly difficult to emotionally adjust to the new situation, his/her brain and immune activity will be affected and this will take its toll on the child’s general health. Older children also suffer from this phenomenon, which is commonly known as ‘post-holiday syndrome’.
However, younger children seem to be especially vulnerable. They can fall ill more easily as their immune systems are still developing. Also, sometimes meals provided in the school canteen are not nutritious and this can further weaken the child’s defense system.
The Spanish Chiropractic Association (AEQ) recommends that children maintain healthy habits and that they are free from emotional stress. In order to strengthen resistance to stress, it is advisable to include a visit to the chiropractor along with taking other measures.
Chiropractic treatment works on the spine to correct misaligned vertebrae (vertebral subluxations) that damage the nervous system and alter the function of the nerves emanating to all organs of the body from the spinal cord.
Through precise chiropractic spinal adjustments these spinal displacements can be corrected, so the nervous system can get back to transmitting information free from any obstruction. At the same time, the chiropractic adjustment relieves nerve pain, restores mobility of the spine, promotes good posture and helps relieve muscle tension resulting from stress.
Advice for dealing with Back to School stress
Some of the following preventive measures for stress can be adopted:
Tell your child that school is an attractive and fun place where he/she can learn and share a space with peers and friends.
Sleep is essential to regenerate the body and mind. It is essential to put in place a schedule that is compatible with the new school timetable and pace of life so that the child does not miss out on sleep.
A healthy and varied diet is critical. A good breakfast every morning will ensure that the child goes off to school with energy. Children should eat only fresh and homemade food, avoiding ready meals.
You should increase the consumption of foods rich in vitamins and minerals (fruits, nuts and cereals), zinc (fresh vegetables, pulses) and omega 3 (oily fish). Vitamin D should also be increased in the diet. It is critical as it participates in important processes such as absorption and maintaining levels of calcium, essential for the functioning of the nervous system, and building strong bones and teeth.
In order to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D your child must be exposed to sunlight and ultraviolet rays. So, your child should play outdoors, especially in winter, in order to keep the immune system at peak performance level.
The consumption of sugars, sugary sodas etc. should be reduced as they bring down defenses. The same applies to caffeine and trans fats.
Plenty of exercise is very good for the body, especially during the growth stage, and it has the added benefit of releasing tension.
If your child falls ill, it is best for him /her to stay at home until fully recovered, so he/she has the opportunity to strengthen the immune system again before returning to school.
If there are no symptoms of illness, a visit to the chiropractor is advisable as a preventative measure to protect the spine and nervous system.
References for more information on stress and the immune system:
*Paul Rosch, MD; John Sheridan, PhD; The American Institute of Stress; MEDLINEplus Khansari, DN; Murgo AJ, Faith RE (1990). «Effects of stress on the immune system». Immunology Today 11: pp. 170–175. PMID 2186751.Segerstrom, S.C. and Miller, G.E. (2004). Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 130, No. 4.
Asociación Española de Quiropráctica (AEQ): www.quiropractica-aeq.com
Asociación Española de Usuarios de la Quiropráctica (AEUQ): www.aeuq.net
Laquiropractica.info (Informative Web of AEQ): http://www.laquiropractica.info.
Official list of accredited chiropractic professionals in Spain: