Colds & Flu in Teens

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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15-year-old has gotten every illness in a big way

Oct 2008

My 15-yr. old daughter has gotten every illness in a big way and it's always something. We've been to many specialists. Does anyone have a good western doctor that can assess her immune system, and also I'd like names of alternative therapy practitioners that have demonstrated an ability to help. Thanks, and I'll take my answers online

I can highly recommend Anasuya Batliner a nutritionist in Berkeley. Her number is 848-8439 and her website is She is VERY practical and talks very honestly with teens. She is reasonable and doesn't expect them to follow every single thing she recommends but does make clear why she is recommending something. She might recommend a combination of supplements and diet changes. My daughter has seen her, as has a friend's teenage daughter, both were helped by Anasuya. Good luck. anon

The most effective way I know of not ''catching every little thing'' is a simple salt nasal rinse called ''Neil Med Sinus Rinse'' which is available online or at any pharmacy. After years and years of being sick all the time I now never catch anything -- even though I teach! The inexpensive ($15) package includes a plastic squirt bottle and a month's worth of of saline rinse. Just add the packet to the bottle and fill with the hottest water your can stand. Used every night and every morning, you are guaranteed not to every catch anything that's ''going around'' again. it's based on simple science: viruses can't live in 1) heat or 2) salt, both of which are utilized with this simple method. No, I don't own stock in the company, but I use it myself and recommend that all my singers use it. And the ones that do no longer get sick and miss big concerts. Try it for a month -- you'll be amazed. Truly! Leela

I highly recommend Roberta Lewis, who is a very experienced acupuncturist/practitioner of Chinese medicine. I have referred her patients over the years and received great feedback. I know she has had success with this kind of problem. She also has a great manner with young people. Her number is 540-8528 jen

12 year old girl with VERY frequent colds

Feb 2008

My 12 year old daughter has had at least 10-12 colds in the past 6 months. She has also had ear infections in both ears, unusual at this age. This is the first time in 5-6 years she has been so sick continuously. She gets well, then catches another cold. She is mildly asthmatic and the colds go to her chest so we have frequent sleepless nights.

I have taken my daughter to our pediatrician 2 or 3 times. The ped. is nice and seems competent (she is new to the office), but says things like ''it's GREAT she's getting colds, not a problem, because she is developing immunity.'' She means well but sounds facile. Of course, I hope she is right and that is all there is to it.

I'm worried that there may be some underlying problem. Does anyone have any advice/suggestions on what has worked with (1) building immunity; (2) alternative treatments (homeopathic, etc.) and experience/recommendations on alternative practitioners; (3)any other issues I should be aware of, such as underlying conditions (4) any other advice on this problem. Anxious and worried mama

After a move (from Berkeley to Palo Alto) I was chronically sick and couldn't figure out why. Eventually, I went to an allergist and discovered I was allergic to many things (mostly plants) in my new environment. I had never had allergies before, so it took me (and my doctor) awhile to even consider allergies as a possible trigger. Check with the allergist, but I think it's possible for it to take up to three years in a new location before your body starts to have allergic reactions. For an allergist here in Berkeley, we really like Dr. James Nickelsen, 510-644-2316 for children and adults. Brenda

I don't want to alarm the mother whose daughter has frequent colds, but there are sometimes underlying reasons for immune-system deficiencies. My daughter was frequently sick from babyhood on and was later diagnosed with chronic-fatigue immune-dysfunction syndrome. This explained a lot to us. We had also often taken her to the doctor and had been reassured with some platitudes. But there was no way the doctor could have known. I hope your daughter is merely going through a tough period and will soon be better. Is she getting enough sleep? Mother of CFIDS/FMS

This sounds very familiar. My daughter had just this kind of year in 7th grade. She had been a kid with ear infections as a younger child, but had ''grown out'' of them. Then came her 7th grade school year where she got sick and it migrated from her head to her ears to her chest (bronchitis) back to her head, around and around. She had so much fluid in her ears that she was functionally deaf for a couple of months. The answer was to remove her tonsils and adenoids, drain her ears and put tubes in. Just like that it was over. The dark circles under her eyes went away, and she looked more rested on far less sleep. it may not be the answer for everyone, but it was a miraculous end to a nightmare of a year. worth looking into

When I was about 13, I suddenly started getting sick all the time, mostly colds, bad headaches, bronchitis, a lot of ''flu like symptoms'' without the fevers, some asthma, and strange things like lots of canker sores, and finally a few years later almost constant yeast infections, and I just felt run down all the time. I was at the doctor constantly, mostly to treat the current problem but occasionally to try and find out what the heck was going on. I heard everything from ''you're getting older now so you'll have less energy'' (at 14!!) to ''could be a brain tumor'' but nothing turned up. FINALLY, some brilliant doctor suggested food allergies. Although anaphylactic shock reactions are picked up on skin tests (what I had) more subtle symptoms can be missed and even the blood tests can be inconclusive, and the docs usually don't go this route unless there are stomach issues (which I didn't have). I cut out a gazillion things and after about a year I was 100% healthy. I'm 34 now and still can't eat wheat or corn, but I was able to bring some foods back. Diagnosing this really saved my life (and my sanity). Might be worth checking out. Melanie

I would have several concerns about this- one would be that her immune system is suppressed. This could happen if she's taking steroids for her asthma or from something as serious as leukemia. Make sure your doctor does some blood testing to rule this out. She could have a simple vitamin deficiency or be anemic from menstruating. There are good food-based multivitamins w/minerals you can buy - at whole foods or elephant pharmacy - the staff there could help you choose one. Another possibility is a food allergy - wheat or dairy allergies are not uncommon. You could also try giving her probiotic supplements (flora found naturally in our intestines) to strengthen her immune system. anon

I recommend a nutritionist who has really helped my daughter. Her name is Anasuya Batliner. Her website is She's in Berkeley, her number is 848-8439. She might have suggestions about supplements and foods, etc. Maybe she can help identify any allergies that your daughter may have. They can wear down the immune system. Good Luck. Nadja

I'd look into allergies...particularly dairy. I have many allergies, but my allergy to dairy is the worst. I grew up with asthma and it took me years to identify much of my asthma was caused by an allergy to dairy. Julie

I used to have a few chronic issues that the traditional doctors just weren't helping either. They kept telling me I was just fine, when I was absolutely not fine. I felt lost in a system that didn't really care about me. Then I went to a homeopath. He quickly discovered what was going on. It did take a few months to get everything taken care of, but those chronic problems went away for good. Only one of them returns from time to time, but I know how to quickly address it on my own now. You need to see a naturopath or homeopath. They will be able to address it from a different perspective. I think your doc is a little nutso to be saying how good it is your daughter keeps getting sick. I disagree. As for some simple advice... kefir is a wonderful immune- builder. Even a little a day is helpful. Better to make it yourself (more potent/cheaper), but even the stuff in the store is helpful. anon

I'm willing to bet your daughter has food allergies. That many colds is not ''building the immune system'''s a weak immune system not being able to get strong enough to fight off germs. You might start with dairy. ALL DAIRY! You can try Goats milk instead of cow. Often people with dairy allergies can tolerate Goats milk which is a much more human friendly milk than cows milk. Try it for a few weeks at least, or longer. See if that changes anything. Next, you can try gluten (flour products, oats, barley, grass grains)....not easy to take kids off of gluten, but definately do-able. There are lots of gluten free products around. You might want to look into some supplements that will help build her immune system. How about a mold allergy? Any mold in your house? Her closet? Rug? What about a dust allergy. These are the common ones that could cause frequent cold symptoms. Also, does she get enough sleep? Kids that don't get enough sleep (like mine) don't get a chance to recharge their battery, so to speak, so the system is always weak. My son's constant colds stopped when we took him off of dairy. (at 5 yrs ) NOw at 12, he can eat dairy, though he really doesn't like cows milk...we're so used to Goats milk (Meyenberg brand). There are many on line sites that can help you. Check'll find lots there. Good luck. anon mom

Although my son is younger than your daughter, he had 2 difficult years in a row with catching every illness and cold that came along. He even got pneumonia and viral asthma at one point. We have a wonderful Naturopath that helped us throughout the ordeal, and consistently gave us tools to help build his immunity. Now, over a year later he is doing great! He has had 2 colds this season, but they've been minor. Also- His overall health and energy are so much better than ever before. Anyway, I just want to share with you the name of our Naturopath so that you can hopefully get some immune building support for your daughter. Her name is Dr. Tara Levy and she has offices in Concord and Berkeley. I'm not sure what the number is for the Berkeley office, but the Concord # is 925-602-0582 the website is I believe I can also say from experience that the power of prayer and positive visualization are wonderful, effective tools also! Good Luck! Thankful for Natuopathy

I am wondering about mold exposure. I had a problem like this once with the head of my bed near a window that tended to sweat in winter and had a light layer of mold on the inside frame. Reversing the pillow to the other end of the bed was curative in my case as was thorough clean up of mold with bleach and TSP. Dr. Richie Shoemaker in Maryland has alot of infomation on mold illness. He has a site called that might be worth a look if you think mold could possibly be a suspect. He offers some testing kits I believe. Other sources might be in the heating/AC system and ducts. If others in the home are not ill try relocating the child to a different room at least temporarily. Drafts are also suspect. Have the child wear a stocking hat at night to keep her head warm. If you are not comfortable with your doctor, that is the first sign that you need a new one! I think you are right to be concerned as constant colds is not normal. Shop around until you find a doctor you feel confident about. That may take awhile but will be well worth the search when you find the right one. If the colds are more in the winter have you considered a humidifier? If you already use one is it sterile and clean. The newer ones use an ultraviolet to purify the water and kill germs. I hope these ideas are helpful and that you get the issue resolved. Taking a trip away from home for awhile can help rule out environmental concerns if curative. Best Wishes jtwent

First, I don't think it's normal to have colds that frequently. Have you checked her room for mold? I have heard that sometimes people with deviated septums have frequent colds. I have also heard that ''nasal irrigation'' can help prevent colds -- I just started doing it a month ago, and it helps me to breathe better. Don't know if that will solve the problem, but it might be worth a try. dave

Be insistent with your pediatrician about following up on this if you feel like this is abnormal for your child. It could be normal or it could be a symptom of something more serious. better to be safe. Ask, for example, If this were a symptom of something bigger, what would you test for first? What are the tests? If she doesn't answer it may be that she doesn't know. Ask her how to find out. Ask her if she feels comfortable asking another doctor in the practice. Ask her what kind of pediatric specialist might be able to shed some light on the situation. Ask her for a referral. Be polite but firm. If, in spite of your parental instincts and insistence, she continues to brush you off, see a different doctor. anon

My daughter had a year with so many infections so I started doing a thorough cleaning of her room (I mean I cleaned it every week, but I started washing walls). I discovered a bit of mold near her bed. Removing this seemed to help her immune system. She was also a bit depressed that year and so I took her to a counselor which helped us make a decision about her future school. This also seemed to help. anonymous

Here is a good way to protect children from colds. You can watch the video at this site. Cough Etiquette video. health professional and mom

Another thought on constant colds is school environment. You mentioned the last 6 months (since school started) and wondered if a new middle school could be part of the problem. I remember we experienced a similar incidence of increased viral/bacterial infections when transferring a 12 year old from an elementary school of 300 to a middle school of 1000 students. The cleanliness of the larger school was not nearly the same as the smaller school and as a result both students and staff were constantly ill with colds. Many students attended while ill due to lack of childcare if they stayed home. If you started a new school in the Fall this may be what you are experiencing. We dealt with the problem with hand sanitizer in her backpack and lots of hand washing and regular gargling upon any sign of sore throat. Good luck sorting it out. jtwent