September marks the start of the season every parent comes to dread: cold and flu season. As children take their play indoors, germs circulate more quickly, leading to six months of increased infections that can, at any point, turn a day of school or work into cancelled meetings and time spent coughing on the couch.

As with all illnesses, prevention is better than the cure. While many parents turn to hand sanitizer to kill germs, these store-bought concoctions can contain alcohol and harsh chemicals. Dr. Lawrence Rosen, a nationally recognized expert in Pediatric Integrative Medicine, shares this recipe for a gentler – and equally effective – homemade hand sanitizer:

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Ingredients

3 oz. filtered water
1 tsp. aloe vera gel
10 drops cinnamon essential oil
10 drops clove essential oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
20 drops lemon oil

Instructions

Mix ingredients in a 4-ounce spray dispenser, and shake gently. Spray on children’s hands, and teach them to massage the spray into their hands for 30 seconds. The result is a natural, chemical free, hand sanitizer to keep germs at bay.

Of course, some illnesses are unavoidable. When a cold or flu does strike, Dr. Rosen recommends using Sambucol (black elderberry extract) to help alleviate symptoms faster. Researchers have found that influenza patients treated with elderberry recover four days faster, on average, than those not receiving treatment. Elderberry is safe for children two years or older – which means your kids can get back to school faster when recovering from the flu.

About the Author

Dr. Rosen, along with holistic-minded parent Jeff Cohen, recently published a book of natural remedies for nearly 100 common childhood ailments – everything from acne to urinary tract infections. The book, Treatment Alternatives for Children: Reduce Serious Side Effects with Natural Equivalents to Conventional Remedies for Common Childhood Ailments, is a resource for parents who want to find alternatives to prescription antibiotics and other conventional treatments that sometimes have harsh side effects. Like Dr. Rosen’s approach to preventing, and treating, the flu, each ailment is addressed from the perspective of the child’s overall wellbeing.