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Today Dr. Elana interviews holistic pediatrician Dr. Elisa Song, MD on the urgent topic of the Coronavirus. This interview dives into the current outbreak of Coronavirus, sharing current statistics and basic practices you can add into your daily routine to help strengthen your family’s immune system and lessen your chances of developing Coronavirus. Dr. Song lends her knowledge to empower us. By being well informed, we can transform our fear and lessen our anxiety during the Coronavirus outbreak, for common concerns like the flu, and for future outbreaks. She provides tangible tips and solutions we can implement right away to feel proactive and better understand what this virus is and how we can protect our families. Note: This episode was recorded on March 1st, 2020. Dr. Song will be updating her blog post (linked in the show notes) as she learns more information.
Elisa Song 0:03
Do not read the news. Every once in a while, kind of pop up to see what is new in the world about coronavirus, but don’t every day check out the new coronavirus statistic. It’s not going to serve you. It’s not going to make a difference right now.
Elana Roumell 0:19
Welcome back to the Whole Mamas podcast. We’re here to give you tools, resources, and evidence-based information so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Whether you’re trying to conceive or navigating life with a toddler or a teenager, we’ve got you covered. I’m Dr. Elena Romell, pediatric naturopathic doctor and creator of Med School for Moms, an online resource where I teach moms how to safely be a doctor mom. My co-host is Stephanie Greunke, registered dietitian and program manager for Whole Mamas Club. Also the co-creator of Whole Mamas pregnancy program and upcoming postpartum program.
On today’s episode you are in for a treat. This is easily one of my top three favorite interviews I’ve done for you mamas so far. This interview dives into not only the current outbreak of coronavirus, but it’ll also help you mamas learn how to transform your fear for other future outbreaks and give you tangible tips and solutions so you can implement right away with your family to feel protected and informed. Here at Whole Mamas, we went above and beyond to record this interview over a weekend and got it ready to air within less than 48 hours. I want to quickly thank the team for making this happen so we can empower you mamas right away. And Dr. Song is going to teach us how we can stay calm during this outbreak, what preventative measures we can take, and ultimately better understand what this virus is and how we could protect our kids. Before we welcome Dr. Elisa Song, I’d like to share more about who she is and her background. Dr. Song is a holistic pediatrician who has helped thousands of kids get to the root cause of their health concerns and help their parents understand how to heal their children from the inside out using an integrative pediatric approach. She’s a medically trained doctor, board certified, Stanford, NYU UCSF, smart lady with a lot of great training, and she really does hone in on a functional medicine approach in her practice. She not only treats patients in her busy clinic but also travels the world to teach doctors how they too can expand their practice to incorporate more of a functional medicine holistic approach. Now, I’m not done. She also created Healthy Kids Happy Kids, which is an online resource dedicated to empowering parents to take charge of their kids’ health naturally. Now, let’s welcome our guest, Dr. Elisa Song, and get into the good stuff.
Welcome to the Whole Mamas podcast, Dr. Song. I’m truly so grateful for the time you have set aside on a Sunday nonetheless, to record this interview with me. This is such an important topic. And just to give our listeners a bit of a background, just two days ago, I read your fantastic blog post on coronavirus. And I immediately felt that every mother needed to read this. We’re going to attach that article to our show notes so you have that, but I was so happy to find a resource that I can stand behind and really share your article with so many people reaching out, whether it was family, friends, or just the community of moms that follow me. And with my baby that I recently had, I just haven’t had the chance myself to dive into the research. And you did, and you did an excellent job. So thank you so much for that. Thank you.
Elisa Song 3:19
The reason I did it was because I first started researching it for me and my family, because I have kids, too. Like, what do I want to know to be prepared and stay calm? And then I want to share that with my patients and whoever needed the information. So I’m so glad it was useful.
Elana Roumell 3:37
It’s excellent. I think we share that so much, that what we do for our own lives and our lifestyles, we always want to share with our family, friends, and community, and I think it’s a testament to both of our shared passions that we rearrange our schedules. We’re here on a Sunday morning to help educate you moms. We’re so passionate about helping relieve anxiety in our families and in moms, because it really does take a toll on the whole family and there’s a lot of anxiety around the coronavirus. We’re trying to get this podcast scheduled as quickly as possible. So thank you for making the time. Really, truly so excited to dive into this information. But before we do, we always love to start our episodes with our nourish yourself segment. So, what did you do today or do you plan to do to nourish yourself?
Elisa Song 4:22
I have the same morning ritual that I try to do every single morning and on the days where for whatever reason life gets in the way, as it can. When I don’t do this, it really, really makes a difference in how my day flows. So I just wake up before the kids and right now I’m at the a form conference. So I’m in a hotel room, so I don’t have to worry about the kids coming in. But I wake up early because I love that morning calm and quiet, which is so rare to have as a busy mama. And so that to me is one of the most important things I can do and in that calm, quiet space. I do a literally a five minute breathing meditation. It only takes five minutes. Because when I was doing longer meditations and trying to sit there for half an hour or sometimes even an hour, I actually would start to feel more stressed about “oh my gosh, I’m cutting into my time to make breakfast and pack lunches and get ready for work.” And so this five minute meditation that I do, it’s been a life changer for me and I actually carry with me these different crystals that I lay out in front of me, no matter where I go. And I just repeat certain mantras to myself. One of the most important mantras to me that I tell myself, every day I start off with “I am calm, I’m clear, I have abundance.” Because if we can start the day with calm, clarity, and gratitude for the abundance that we have, it just sets the stage for the most beautiful day ever. And, no life doesn’t always go well. But at least we can get back to that center of calm, clarity, and abundance. And that is really how I nourish myself every day.
Elana Roumell 6:04
Beautiful, I love it. And I love that you gave yourself permission to just do it for five minutes. It doesn’t have to be a 30 minute practice. You made it workable in your life and you’re consistent, which I think is one of the best things that we can do in general, is just to be consistent about these nourishing practices. So I love it. Thank you for sharing. I think that’s really beautiful. So what I’m going to do today to nourish myself, I’m doing this a little bit later in the morning. We just started our day now. I’m so excited, and I feel weirdly excited for this. But I’m going to a friend’s house and I’m making baby food. My son is now just four months and we’re going to make homemade baby food with the common allergens. And as you know, we both teach our patients how the research shows the common food allergens are so important to introduce as early as four to six months to help avoid these long term allergies and I don’t necessarily have a lot of wheat around my house or soy around my house; these are some things that I actually don’t eat a lot of or any. I don’t eat wheat. So I was like, how am I going to get this into my child regularly? And so I thought, I’m just going to make it from scratch. I’m going to freeze them in silicone little trays, I’m going to have them easily accessible. And I’m so excited, I have all the ingredients. I’m going to pair them with fruits. I have this whole plan, I’m hopefully going to get a chance to record some and put it on my Instagram just to kind of help inspire and support some moms who may be also interested in doing this. But that’s gonna be so nourishing to me. It’s going to nourish my baby and give me some peace of mind. So I’m so excited to do that today.
Elisa Song 7:36
And as you know, that you’ve seen in your practice, and I see in my practice, the explosion of kids with anaphylactic food allergies. So this early introduction is so key. And there are companies that are cropping up that have the little baby foods that have all of the, whatever, top 18 allergens in them, but what I tell parents is do what you’re doing. Give them real food. Make the food with the allergens and it’s gonna be so much more nourishing. You’re gonna guarantee it only has the ingredients that you want, that it’s gonna be organic, and that it’s really made with love. Because the intention that we bring to the food that we make and serve to our families also makes a difference.
Elana Roumell 8:18
Absolutely. In fact, because I love this stuff. I was researching all the different brands and honestly, there are some really great organic powder type of mixes you could do, for very busy moms who prefer not to have to make it themselves. There are options and there are options that are convenient. And I don’t think this is going to take me more than maybe an hour. It’s minimal ingredients. It’s not expensive. It’s actually much cheaper than getting it in the little packets. I love that it’s fresh and there will definitely be a lot of love and excitement in these. I totally agree. So thank you for that.
Let’s go ahead and jump into this topic because there’s so much urgency, so much anxiety around coronavirus. Again, your article was fantastic, so we’re going to really dive into it in this episode. Before we do, I know a lot about you. I introduced you in our introduction. But if you don’t mind just sharing a little bit with our audience about you personally and how you became so passionate about not only pediatrics, but all the other work that you do in the world, because I know we both love to educate and empower our moms. And so let the listeners know what else you do.
Elisa Song 9:25
It’s interesting, I think that if you keep your eyes open, and see the opportunities, then your path becomes more and more clear. And so I think I just was fortunate enough to really take the opportunities that presented. When I was in college, I did my undergraduate at Stanford, I had no intention of being a doctor. I always knew I want to work with kids. I was going to be a civil rights lawyer and do children’s advocacy and policy. And I was going to go to Capitol Hill My initial degree and the degree I graduated with was political science with a public policy emphasis. And I took the LSATs. I was all set to be a lawyer. And then I realized, I can do some really good work doing that, but I actually won’t work with children. And so that’s when I started really looking at medicine. My mother was an OBGYN and I had always kind of discounted medicine as a career because she worked so hard as an OBGYN. And then one day I saw a flyer on a telephone pole that was announcing one of the first meetings of the American Holistic Medical Association. And I don’t know what possessed me as a junior in college to go to the convention center in Santa Clara. But that’s when I heard these people who were just barely getting known. This is in the in the late 80s, early 90s. And Andrew Weil was there, Deepak Chopra, Joan Borysenko. My mind was blown. And so it was then that I thought, maybe I’ll look into medicine, and I actually looked at Bastyr, and I got an application. And I was like, Mom, I think I want to become an ND, and she’s like, what is that? Nobody I knew back then knew what an ND was. Again, this is like 20 years ago, more than that. 25 plus years ago. And then everyone just kept telling me, “just go become a real doctor first, you can study that later.” And to this day, I do have some some regrets, but that’s where I always, even in my medical school training and my residency program at UCSF, I always was really interested and invested in learning more of an integrative naturopathic approach and I even in residency did a whole month looking at integrative approaches to rheumatoid arthritis in kids. So it’s been there with me and when I left residency, I knew I was going to open up an integrative holistic practice. And that’s what I’ve done. I truly, truly believe that the best medicine that we can give our kids is that integrative approach, and as we were talking before the show, it’s never an either or, there’s a time and a place for everything. There’s a time for home care, there’s a time for natural treatments, there’s a time for conventional treatments. And so I always say knowledge is power. And you and I, that’s what we’re teaching parents. It’s not just avoid the doctor or only go to the doctor. There’s a middle zone where we can really take the best of what we have, and use the evidence to guide us.
Elana Roumell 12:21
That’s why our philosophies are so similar. And I actually think it’s so wonderful that you went this path because you’re really helping to bridge between conventional and alternative type of therapies. You travel the world, teaching doctors more about holistic type of approaches. And I appreciate that because I think we need more of that in the world. And we’re seeing the demand more and more. So it’s really a gift what you are providing to not only your patients. I’m so glad you went into medicine and not law, although we could use good lobbyists right now, to be honest, but I think it’s great. So thank you for sharing your background.
You said one of your biggest mottos is that you love educating and empowering. One of your other mottos is “let’s fight fear with facts.” And I loved how you started your coronavirus article on that. Let’s fight fear with facts. Because I think right now we have so much anxiety around what this means and are kids going to get sick and what does this look like? And we go right to the mortality rates. And so I would love for you to really help our moms understand what the facts are behind coronavirus. We’re going to go into how it spreads, what it is, how to prevent it. But just that motto that you use, it’s so empowering and how we can actually use that not only just for coronavirus, but just illness in general is if we can all transform our mindset to really get behind the facts versus letting our emotions drive us. I think we can all really calm our anxiety. If you could speak a little bit about that and help our listeners learn how they can do that would be really, really great.
Elisa Song 13:58
We really do need the facts and I love that you said it’s not just about coronavirus because there will always be some “epidemic” or impending epidemic in the media that is going to really clutch at our hearts as mamas to make us afraid that our kids are going to get sick or even worse. The World Health Organization, the Director General, the quote that I started off the blog post with is his because he said on February 15, which is so true, that we’re not just fighting an epidemic, we are fighting an infodemic. In this day and age, where we are bombarded every single day, no matter what platform we’re on, whether we’re listening to the radio, or watching TV, or scrolling our Facebook page or Instagram page or Twitter, you cannot help but see five or 10 different articles that are so scary about coronavirus. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take this seriously. We absolutely need to, but this constant bombardment is so fear inducing, and it can paralyze us. And I really want moms to know that fear is something that we need to try to calm because fear can create its own inflammation and take on a life of its own. And so that’s where my mantra, “I’m calm…” is so important, not just to stay calm now, but really for the rest of our lives and teach our kids how to stay calm and sort out the hysteria and the facts and really base our actions on the facts that we know. And so that’s where I really like to provide that “evidence-based medicine” and that word, evidence-based medicine, it gets thrown around all the time, mostly to counter natural treatments, which drives me crazy because there’s so much evidence in the literature that natural treatments and integrative approaches can be really effective, even more so than sometimes conventional medications. Again, there’s that time and place for everything. But what we have to remember is that evidence-based medicine doesn’t just take into account the literature, it takes into account clinical experience, and the art of medicine. And so that’s what I want parents to take away is really when we can empower ourselves with knowledge. When we can look at the evidence and the experience of practitioners around the world, we can really come together to understand what this epidemic, or what the “flu epidemics” that come and go every year, how we can really quell that hysteria. I started off doing this because my first thing was really fever. Everyone is afraid of fever. Doctors, nurses, parents, grandparents, everyone has fever phobia, and we need to understand that fever actually is our body’s natural response to fighting infections, and fever can be really, really good. So that was my first education piece. And then I started looking around and thinking, Well, what else do my patients have hysteria around? Do my family members? Do my friends? And really, how do we calm that hysteria? Because we really need calm when there’s fear and my suggestion to a lot of families right now is don’t read the news. Every once in a while, kind of pop up to see what is new in the world about coronavirus, but don’t every day check out the new coronavirus statistic. It’s not going to serve you. It’s not going to make a difference right now. The blog post, I just updated. We’re talking right now, Sunday, March 1. I just updated it yesterday, February 29. And I will continue to update it with all the new information we get. And I might look to that just to see is there some new information but right now, there’s not really any new information. There’s just more information about how many more cases we have and how many more deaths we have. It’s just fueling the fear. So I really am so glad you’re doing this podcast so we can really get to the facts.
Elana Roumell 17:49
Great, I love it. I almost started tearing up while you were talking about this, I think because I see in my own clinical practice the anxiety around so many different illnesses that moms have and I see the impact it has on the kids. When us moms are anxious our kids really pick up on it and it’s something I really hone in on. In my course in Med School for Moms, I have a whole section on mindset simply because of this and so I really feel your passion in this and I have the same and we just work with so many moms and so I think it’s really great to just have that reminder. And I also want to honor and respect that moms are fearful and that’s okay because we love our kids. We want the best for our kids and we’re going to go into this coronavirus spreads quickly, and so when something spreads quickly and easily, of course, there’s reason to be concerned but let’s go ahead and talk about why we do feel like we can actually have some calmness around the coronavirus and what that may look like for us because I just want to give an example: every year there’s going to be another thing that we can be fearful for. So you know in 2019, not that long ago, it was the measles. And then a few years back it was SARS and then a few years back–there’s always going to be something that the media will hype that the infographic is going to start having, that infodemic; I loved how you said that. And so what can we do to really feel empowered and feel informed? So let’s go ahead and see how you broke down the coronavirus as just one example, but moms, keep in mind that you could do this for other illnesses and we can, together, keep on helping to educate you guys. So let’s go ahead, and to start, what exactly is the coronavirus and how does it spread so quickly?
Elisa Song 19:35
I just want to also say, Elana, that one thing that I think our passions are is not just to inform but also to give practical tips. Because just as a mom myself, what I want when I read something or hear something is not just Okay, here are the facts. But, now what can I do? What can I do to keep my kids healthy, to protect them? What can I do to protect my family? And so, it’s not just laying out the information but saying here’s some practical steps. Here’s some things that we can do to feel empowered. So I love that you do that in your courses. I do that in my articles and courses and really try to get that word out that we do have some power in this. We don’t have to just sit there and let things happen to us. We can be proactive. So, the coronavirus is a category of a huge number of viruses and corona is crown in Latin. So when you look at the pictures of the coronavirus, it looks like there are multiple crown like spikes sticking out from the virus and so that’s why it’s called coronavirus, but there are many, many, many different kinds of coronavirus and they can cause very mild symptoms from the common cold. In fact, many of the colds that we get every year are going to be caused by certain strains of the coronavirus. But then there are certain strains of coronavirus that can cause more severe illness. SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, several years ago, that was also a novel coronavirus back then and MERS in the Middle East. So this current coronavirus infection is caused by a novel coronavirus, meaning the world has never seen this before, which is why there is more fear around it because we just don’t know a lot about it. We’re learning more and more every day and I’m so grateful that researchers are really trying to figure out what we can do to possibly treat this new coronavirus. But you will see in the news different terminology. So COVID-19 is the name of the respiratory illness that is being caused by this new coronavirus and the name that you’ll see for this new coronavirus, you might see it as 2019 novel coronavirus. You might see it as 2019-nCoV, or you might even see it as SARS CoV2, so that’s all the same new coronavirus that we’re seeing that is causing the disease that we’re seeing clinically, which is called COVID-2. Now how does it spread? Think about the common cold or think about the flu, it’s going to spread through respiratory droplets. So if a person who’s infected sneezes or coughs and you get those respiratory droplets in your eyes, nose, or mouth, then those viral particles can then replicate. They can multiply and copy inside your system and then start to create symptoms. There is some evidence that there might possibly be some fecal oral transmission, meaning they have found some coronavirus in people’s stool. And the researchers there are really investigating how long coronavirus can live on surfaces. We just don’t know that. We know that viruses can live on surfaces, but the coronavirus, we’re not sure if it can. If they can live on surfaces, then how long it can live on surfaces. That’s called fomite. And that’s with things like tray top tables on the airplane if you’re traveling, or your laptop or the bathroom handle, the door handle. So for now, I would assume that there can possibly be some transmission through fomites. And just take the appropriate precautions.
Elana Roumell 23:17
Excellent. Okay, thank you. And I think this is actually why hand washing is so very important and not touching your face. So why don’t you go into some of that: if this virus is living on different pieces of furniture, or if it can be passed through respiratory droplets, what are some of the things that we could do to then help prevent that type of exposure?
Elisa Song 23:38
That’s really key. Washing hands, it’s so common sense. We learn how to wash our hands in preschool. I remember my kids in preschool before they had snack, after they went to the bathroom, all the little kids would line up to wash their hands, and sing their ABCs. But we have to get back to the basics. And this is so basic, a brand new study literally came out. I’m going to put it up on the blog post and update it. But this study, the epidemiologists were looking at what would happen if more people washed their hands to prevent the spread of this new coronavirus and what they found. This is so gross. Only about 30% of people wash their hands.
Elana Roumell 24:26
Wow. Oh, my goodness!
Elisa Song 24:27
Thirty percent. Then when they look at how people wash their hands, most people are just kind of running their hands under water quickly and then just drying.
Elana Roumell 24:38
Well, I was going to bring that up. I don’t think many people do for the full 20 seconds without water.
Elisa Song 24:42
Most people are not washing their hands appropriately. So they found that if just another 30%, 60% of people, instead of maybe the 20% of air travelers, they looked at your trailers, wash their hands effectively that it could slow down the spread of this new coronavirus by almost 70%. My jaw dropped when I read that. But then how do we wash our hands? Another study I also want to point out there was a study, very, very small but they looked in the hospital, this is with influenza virus, but they found that surgeons, doctors who wash their hands, under warm running water and soap actually inactivated, killed the influenza virus much more effectively than any alcohol hand sanitizer that you could use. Plain old soap and water if you can do it, and you have to wash 20– I would take 30 seconds because that’s what they looked at in this hand washing study in the hospital. So 30 seconds, really warm water and soap and you want to get in between your fingers. Rub your palms in the back of your hand and get all that dirt out from under your nails. So teach your children how to wash their hands effectively and do it well. Because that is one of the best things as they go to school, as they go to birthday parties, as you try not to have them live in a bubble out of fear. washing their hands can be the best way for them to not carry the coronavirus on their fingers and then give it to themselves. Because remember, it can get through your eyes, nose, and mouth. So that’s also really being mindful of not touching your face, unnecessarily and washing your hands before you eat and before you do touch your hands. One thing that I do with Kenzie and Bodie, my kids, is when they touch their face, I just have them pay attention to Oh, did you notice that you just touched your eyes? Because we don’t realize how often we touch our face. When I really started paying attention, I couldn’t believe how often I actually, rub my nose or rub my eyes or touch my face, move my hair. And so just paying attention to how often we do that is really important. And these are just kind of common sense practical things but obviously if you see a person whose coughing or sneezing, what the CDC recommends is really maintaining that distance. What is a close contact? What is the distance that you could transmit the coronavirus? It’s probably about six feet. If you’re six feet away from someone who’s sneezing, chances are those respiratory droplets aren’t going to reach you. Now that’s hard, when our babies are coughing and sneezing. We’re not going to keep that distance. But I would say for someone who you really don’t need to be that close to, if they’re obviously sick, just stay away. The other piece that I do really religiously and I’m at this conference right now where there are a lot of people. I’m meeting new colleagues, old friends, we’re hugging and we’re shaking hands, and so not just washing hands, but at the end of the day, when I come back to my hotel room, I am irrigating my nose. And the reason why that’s so important is because, let’s take the influenza virus: we know that the flu virus will, once the respiratory droplets get into your nasal passages, it’ll start to multiply and colonize your nasal passages and it takes maybe a day or two for you to feel symptoms. If you can flush out that virus as soon as it’s in your nose before it starts to multiply and take hold, you can do a lot to prevent that virus from taking hold in the first place. I’ve been doing that every night when I get home from my conference, and the kids and I, Peter, that’s part of our routine. We brush our teeth and we irrigate our noses before bedtime.
Elana Roumell 28:27
I love it. And I’m so glad we’re taking the time to talk about this because it’s so easy for us… I can speak about this personally as a mom and also as a doctor but we try to look for herbal medicines or conventional medicines or something we could take orally to help prevent something. Are we taking enough vitamin C? Are we taking enough vitamin D? And yes, these are important and these foundations of simply washing your hands correctly, making sure we’re not touching our face, doing our best to void, people who are sick, these foundational type of practices can actually be much more effective than some of our reliance on some of these medicines, natural or conventional. And they’re free. Anyone can do this. It’s soap and water. And as long as we’re doing these things correctly, and we have more mindfulness around it, it truly can make a big difference. And I really love your approach with helping teach your children just to have some mindfulness around touching themselves. Because a three year old or six year old or a 10 year old, they’re going to touch themselves, they’re not going to always wash their hands correctly. We’re here to help teach them, but through teaching them, we just help them create some mindfulness around it. And then it also helps us as well as adults. So I just appreciate taking the time to really thoroughly go through that. I think we all too often brush over that and try our best to look for all these different medicines when really we could do it really well without them. So I appreciate that and we’re still going to go into the medicines and such.
Elisa Song 30:00
One thing I absolutely love that you said is that we need to get back to the basics and the foundations and one thing that I see that is, I don’t want to call it a mistake because we always want a solution, but when we’re thinking about natural approaches, and I practice and teach functional medicine, too often we’re not changing the paradigm. We’re just replacing medications for herbs or supplements. And it’s not just about what supplements or herbs can I take for x y and z, it’s how do we set the foundation so that our body is so strong that we don’t always need those herbs and supplements? And we talked about starting foods on your baby, getting that foundation of food, I mean food really is medicine. And in addition to washing your hands and teaching your kids mindfulness and not just think, don’t touch your face, having them be aware of when they’re touching their face is also teaching kids to be mindful and aware of how food can serve their body, keep their body strong and healthy, help them run faster, help them have more fun with their friends. Whatever it is that brings them joy, they’re going to be able to do it so much better if we set those foundations of really getting in those antioxidants, which we’re going to talk about because that is so important: loading in those colorful fruits and vegetables to really keep our body strong and hopefully prevent against severe coronavirus illness and avoiding that sugar. I think that’s one of the most important things we can do is really avoiding that refined sugar because that is what is going to keep our immune systems suppressed and make it more likely that we might contract not just this new coronavirus, but any germ that comes our way. It’s no wonder that kids when they go to a birthday party, with the cupcakes and the ice cream and the candy, that the next day or two they come down with a fever because sugar will suppress your white blood cells’ ability to literally eat up those viruses and bacteria they’re exposed to for anywhere from two to five hours after eating that food.
Elana Roumell 32:09
Yes. Oh my goodness. This is like music to my ears, Elisa. I love this and this is how I teach. We’re so similar with our approach. I think a lot of my friends will say to me, “Gosh, how are you not afraid? You know so much about medicine. Aren’t you afraid of coronavirus? Aren’t you afraid of the flu?” And I always say to them, I’m not afraid because it all comes down to susceptibility. If you put 100 people in a room, not all 100 people will get sick. Why is it that, let’s say, 90 people get sick? It could still be very contagious. But why are those 10 people not sick? And so you have to look at disease spread being kind of twofold. It’s not only just being in contact with a virus or bacteria. It also has to do with susceptibility. So I like to teach where it’s the infection plus susceptibility equals symptoms.
Hey mama, Dr. Elana here to quickly remind you that you can safely be a doctor mom. We all want the best for our children. And as a mom, you’re automatically your child’s number one health advocate. I’ve created guidebooks and video courses to teach you how to feel calm when your child is sick, how to be competent using integrative medicine tools, and how to feel confident knowing when it’s time to visit your doctor, or when you can safely treat your child from home yourself. Head over to MedSchoolForMoms.com/WholeMamas and start watching my free mini course where I teach you the mindset, medicine, and mastery of being a doctor mom. While you’re there, check out my favorite pediatric and mama-approved medicines I use with my patients. I’m always updating my favorite products. Staying up to date is my job so you don’t have to do it. Now join our village of support, mamas. Visit MedSchoolForMoms.com/WholeMamas so you can make confident decisions about your family’s well being. We love helping moms become doctor moms. Now let’s get back to today’s episode.
And so I’m so passionate about helping teach parents how to be proactive and really work on that susceptibility piece. And so let’s go into the symptoms. So if someone is susceptible, and they’re exposed, what symptoms should they be looking, for the coronavirus specifically?
Elisa Song 34:33
For the novel coronavirus, as research comes out, this is what I really want parents to hear: it does seem that most infections are relatively mild. I just want to say that again: most infections appear to be relatively mild and maybe even asymptomatic. And, in fact, it seems that for children, even pregnant women, the infection does appear to be milder. There have been zero reported cases so far as of March 1 as we’re speaking, in children zero to nine years of age and a study looking at pregnant women found that they also did not have any severe complications and their babies did not have any severe complications. And the coronavirus was not found in breast milk or cord blood or in the placenta. So, I want to reassure mamas of kids that it does seem that, especially if we can lay down these foundations. I love that you say infection plus susceptibility equals symptoms. That is huge that our children appear to be less susceptible.
Elana Roumell 35:35
So this is huge, like just this information alone can help relieve anxiety for moms. I would actually say the flu is something that we should put more emphasis on because it can be harmful for our young children and pregnant women. So right there alone I think for coronavirus, this is such great information. Thank you so much for finding that and to empower us with that.
Elisa Song 36:02
You’re welcome. That is huge and that is one of the differences between the influenza virus because the influenza virus does seem to hit young children and pregnant women especially hard. But what are the symptoms that you might see? The most common symptoms are going to be fever and cold-like symptoms: cough, runny nose, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, the same thing we’re going to see in a cold so it can be very difficult to distinguish the novel coronavirus from the common cold or maybe the start of a flu. I also tell parents, the flu, year after year, I do an annual influenza post and that’s one of my most popular posts. And it’s important for parents to know that even with influenza, about 50% of people with influenza will have no or mild symptoms. So, you can have these uncomplicated cold symptoms, which then makes it hard, because I know we’re going to get into who should be tested, but then for some susceptible people, they will go on to developing lower respiratory symptoms, so difficulty breathing, more severe pneumonia and then that can then turn into acute respiratory distress syndrome, even sepsis and ultimately death, and the mortality is what has us in fear and in a panic, and absolutely so because we should not take these deaths lightly. However, we also want to understand that the media’s job is to, yes, spread that information, but also to really create news. And news is only compelling if it is a little bit more shocking. And this is shocking, absolutely. But the death rates are not as high as most people would think. And especially as we see and identify more and more people who have mild or asymptomatic disease, I do believe that we’re going to see these death rates falling. We also have to not take the death rates from China and extrapolate them to the rest of the world, because the death rates in China are likely much higher than they are going to be in the rest of the world. Because very sadly, right now with the explosion, their epidemic right now, they are facing such a lack of supplies, crowding in the hospital and the clinics. And you just see these tragic pictures of people just shoulder to shoulder in these waiting rooms waiting for testing and for treatment, which is inadvertently further spreading the virus. Lack of doctors and nurses to care for these patients and lack of ICU beds and ventilator support. And so, in countries now, where we are really trying to be much more prepared and we have more resources, the death rate is very likely going to be much lower. So we’ll get more of that as researchers figure out the actual mortality rate, but right now, please don’t look at China and China’s mortality rate and then extrapolate that to really say, Oh, this is how much I should be fearful what’s going to happen in the state.
Elana Roumell 39:05
I’m so glad you brought that up. Because it’s not only the crowds and the lack of resources, I also believe it has to do with that susceptibility piece. This area of China is actually one of the most polluted areas unfortunately, in the world. And as you know, you’ve written great articles on this, when we have brush fires in California, we have real bad air pollution, that actually makes our lungs more susceptible to disease. And like you said, it can start in the upper respiratory tract. But the risks are when it goes into the lower respiratory tracts where we can see more mortality rates. And so when you’re already priming the lungs to having more susceptibility for the virus to spread, this is why we’re also seeing some of the increased mortality rates and we’re not seeing that type of pollution or susceptibility here in the United States. Would you agree with that? I want to make that kind of clear to our listeners.
Elisa Song 39:59
I absolutely agree with that. I think just environmentally, you’re right, not just from a preparedness standpoint, a supply standpoint, but environmentally, we don’t have the same risks. They’re finding that the death rate, age seems to be the highest factor. So, over 80 was, by itself, a huge risk factor, and those with chronic illnesses, but also they’re finding that, men in China and the vast majority of men in China smoke. They also have all of that air pollution around them. And so that is increasing the susceptibility, not just of contracting the illness and having symptoms, but then having it much more seriously affect their lungs and developing that acute respiratory distress syndrome. So we don’t have that. I mean, of course, we have pockets of pollution that I would love to clear up in the States. And we really need to take care of our world, not just for ourselves, but for our future and globally, but you’re absolutely right. I think just from that alone, we In the states are a little less susceptible. There is concern in other developing countries of have prepared they will be, and of course, the nutritional status. We are so lucky in the States than in other westernized countries to have the availability of high quality food and produce. Unfortunately, we don’t always take advantage of that. But we have that available to us. So we are really fortunate here.
Elana Roumell 41:25
Great. Alright, let’s move on. To a mom that may be concerned, their child comes home with a runny nose and a cough. This is the season for it. How can they get tested? How easy is it? How hard is it? So let’s go ahead and educate the moms that way.
Elisa Song 41:39
Okay. So this is really, really key. I just this weekend got paged by two patients because their kids have fever, maybe a little runny nose, and they’re wondering the same exact thing. So right now, as of March 1, a doctor’s office or the ER will not be able to test you. So please do not go to the ER or your doctor’s office just for testing. I also don’t recommend just going simply for testing. Because as I mentioned, one reason why it’s spread so rapidly in China is because of the flood of people who are going to get tested and if you didn’t have coronavirus to begin with, you probably were exposed while you’re waiting to be tested, and then going home. So just like we teach our mamas when they’re sick, when your kids are sick with a fever or cold, we do not recommend immediately going to the doctor. So don’t go to the doctor unless you are concerned that your child actually needs medical care. So that’s one thing, not just for this coronavirus, for any other germs. I mean, the ER and doctors offices are the germiest places you can go so I would just avoid them unless your child of course is very sick and needs medical attention. Now, if you have traveled in some of these areas where there are travel alerts, or you have a possible exposure or your child is developing lower respiratory symptoms without a clear source of exposure, developing pneumonia, then it may be worthwhile to get tested at that point. I would call your doctor and find out where to go for testing because as I mentioned, your doctor will not have those test kits available. Right now only the Public Health Department has those available and the CDC is rolling out test kits to various public health departments. So not even every public health department has them. But your doctor can help you figure out where to go for testing. So unfortunately right now, or maybe fortunately, it’s not completely available. The other thing too that I wonder about is the fear that it might instill if your child did have a very mild case of coronavirus and you didn’t know about it. When I have kids come in and I will check them for influenza, I check for influenza A and influenza B mostly because I want to know how much we should really have kids stay at home and understand the course because with the flu, you may have a fever for five to seven days and there may be some other treatments that I might recommend. But for some parents, if I come back with a positive flu swab, and I let parents know, all of a sudden there’s even more fear even though their child looked okay in the office and looks great. So I want parents to understand again, really emphasizing the fact that just because you have COVID-19 does not mean that you or your child will get very sick. There are going to be updated recommendations. I just updated the site yesterday with the new CDC recommendations for testing because initially it was really only those people who traveled from China or had close contact with infected people. But because of the travel ban with China, we don’t have people who’ve traveled from China within the past 14 days. So those are a bit updated. And I’ll update those as I hear more work from my local public health department and from the CDC.
Elana Roumell 45:07
Great. And that’s important. And what about the parents who have these trips scheduled? I’m getting all these messages as well, like, “Oh, we have this big trip, should we even go on the airplane? What should we do?” How can you help calm those nerves and then what can they do to be proactive?
Elisa Song 45:22
I do have some trips coming up in the near future. I’m flying today back to San Francisco, and then in March, I’m going to Seattle to teach and then in April, I’m going to Phoenix. So I have various travel plans, and I am not planning to cancel them at the moment. Again, if I do make that recommendation to my patients, I will let everyone know on the blog site as well. But there are things that we can do. Right now, the CDC has travel advisories on its travel advisory website. And so of course there’s no travel to China but there are certain countries where there is heightened concern. Of course, Italy, South Korea, Japan, and Iran right now are on on the list of that Level 2 alert where we should exercise caution. Everyone has to really take into account their own level of risk aversion. I personally would not take my family to Italy or South Korea. I’m Korean, but if I had a trip planned to Korea, I would postpone that just to kind of let things settle down and see what’s going to happen. But I right now have no plans to cancel domestic travel. What I would do is really be as cautious as you can. I have another blog post on how to travel, how to have a healthy happy holiday, but that was a lot about airplane travel. And also these common sense measures to decrease your susceptibility, as you say, to getting sick on the plane, because a lot of us get sick after we travel. But get enough sleep the night before, do not be packing till three in the morning and I’ve been known to do that. But do not do that. Get enough sleep, do not give your kids sugary junk treats while you’re on the plane. A lot of people when they travel, that’s an excuse get the muffin or get the bag of Chex mix or whatever it is for the plane. Don’t do that because we want to keep our immune system supported while we’re traveling. And then it’s really, really important to me, what I do is wipe down everything and I used to not, I used to think oh, well that’s kind of silly. But there was a study that really looked at the level of germs, the colony counts of different bacteria on different surfaces in the airplane and in the airport. And the flush handle on toilets was not the germiest place. The number one was your tray table. Hands down, like fecal matter worse than anyplace in the bathroom. So I always wipe that down, and you can use your essential oils. I use the babyganic hand wipes and I wipe that down the seat button. The seat buckles, the armrest, the screens. Because now most planes have those screens that kids love to touch and choose whatever game they might play or their movies. Wipe down that screen. So that is one of the things that you can absolutely do. As far as wearing a mask, I get that question a lot. Should we be wearing a mask? Right now as I travel to San Francisco today, I actually do have a mask my husband shoved in N95 masks that we had from the fires in the fall into my bag. I’m not planning on wearing it unless I hear something else in the news. But if we start to see more domestic spread across state lines, I might consider that. The problem for children is that we do not have great fitting masks for kids. Then those surgical masks that have those gaps on the side are not meant to protect you or your child from coronavirus or influenza virus or any other viral infection. Those are meant to protect other people if you cough or sneeze from spreading your respiratory droplets. So it’s really important to know the only masks that are really going to protect you from getting exposed to coronavirus or influenza particles are those N95 or N99 masks, but they have to be fitted really well. You can’t have gaps around under your chin or around your nose. And I don’t know of any N95 masks that fit kids. My kids are a little older. They’re eight and 10. And so we did find some reusable, not nylon, but these cloth masks that fit them pretty well. So that is a concern. I don’t know that masks are going to be an option for most kids. So really again taking all these other precautions to make sure that their immune systems are boosted, that you’re wiping down the tray tables, that you’re irrigating your nose after you fly is really important.
Elana Roumell 50:08
Excellent, these are all such great action steps and all very, very doable so I love this. In your article, you did list some natural therapies. Can you give us a little bit of an insight into which are the top three that you would say, have this on board whether you’re traveling or whether you’re not? What we can really do to help both adults and kids.
Elisa Song 50:33
One of the things that I just want to right off the bat say is that we do not currently know of any conventional or natural treatment that will work against the novel coronavirus. So I can’t give any recommendation that will treat the coronavirus because we don’t know. Scientists are frantically researching, pouring tons of money into trying to find new drugs or old drugs that will work against the novel coronavirus and vaccines that may protect against a novel coronavirus. These are going to be months to maybe years in the making because they have to manufacture those drugs or vaccines or test them. We don’t really have the time to wait necessarily. Of course too there are concerns with this fast tracking of these therapies and how are they going to be appropriately tested for side effects that we don’t want years down the road. And so what I did in the research was to really look at what do we know about what natural agents we have the might potentially treat other coronaviruses that then could be effective against the novel coronavirus? Because my hope is that researchers and scientists read this blog post so they can see that there is evidence for some natural agents, that would be much more readily available and so much cheaper for parents and people to get their hands on. The one that I mentioned that a lot of parents are asking about is sambucus formosana nakai. Now unfortunately, this is not the same as sambucus nigra, the black elderberry that we can find so easily on the shelves or you can make your own homemade syrup. I do not know if this is commercially available anywhere. I have not found it. So unfortunately, this particular sambucus is not something that we can necessarily get. I also don’t recommend stockpiling any herbs right now. But this particular sambucus was found to actually block and inhibit a different kind of coronavirus activity. And what I wrote here, because really food truly is medicine, the caffeic acid, which is not caffeine, but the caffeic acid in this form of sambucus was found to be the active inhibitor of a particular coronavirus. And we can find this caffeic acid in a lot of foods that I list on the website. It is found in coffee but it’s not caffeine but you know things like tumeric, curcumin, thyme, cauliflower, different foods. So, getting your foods that are rich and caffeic acid. The other thing that we want to think about is when we think about COVID-19, and what people are really getting sick from and what people are dying from, it’s really sepsis. And this idea of the cytokine storm, which a lot of people aren’t familiar with that terminology, but the cytokine storm is when basically when your immune system goes haywire, overreacts to an infection or a traumatic trigger, and doesn’t calm down and basically then starts to affect all of your organ systems. Some of the takeaways that I found in the research, there are research papers showing that vitamin C given IV to septic patients can significantly improve their survival. It was not a high dose of vitamin C, this one particular study. It was six grams, 6000 milligrams a day IV. Vitamin D, I love vitamin D, but vitamin D was also found to neutralize some of the toxic compounds that are responsible for sepsis. They found that vitamin D deficiency may increase your susceptibility, your risk for severe infection and sepsis. So I would say for me and my family, the things that I am going to do to prepare our family is not just those common sense measures and not just loading up on antioxidant rich foods, and eating a clean diet and reducing sugars but I will give my children extra vitamin C. I’m very religious about giving extra vitamin D. And also really thinking about loading up on those foods that we know have antiviral properties. Raw garlic. Fortunately, my kids love garlic, so I’m filling up the garlic. Fermented foods like kimchi. Kimchi was found to actually kill the H1N1 influenza virus. So fermented foods, get your fermented foods in. If you like mushrooms, shiitakes, maitake mushrooms have all been found to have some antiviral properties. I list some more on the website. But I would say for mamas listening right now, what you can do from a practical standpoint, that could really help set the stage so that your children will have lower symptomatic and severe infection risk, are really colorful fruits and vegetables, lowering the sugars, extra vitamin C, extra vitamin D, and then looking at some of those antiviral foods.
Elana Roumell 55:32
Oh my goodness, it’s truly amazing how many resources we have. And I think this is why I never get concerned about getting sick. We have so many tools and so many effective tools from the foundational stuff to the natural therapies and then also when there’s appropriate time and if there’s effective treatment, we have conventional therapies. In this regard, it doesn’t sound like the conventional therapies are quite available to us yet. And that’s okay. There’s a lot of research going into it, but like you said there’s already great evidence to show that we have the accessibility to natural therapy. So why not just continue to be proactive and have that on hand now and just have some peace of mind. Go and read your article and for our listeners to really see there’s even more of a list in your blog posts. There’s not enough time to go over everything. So I love that. And I think that that provides so much peace of mind. So thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your time and energy and effort. And again, just to even be here on a Sunday morning, to help reiterate and share this matter. I think by the end of this episode, people can really feel a lot more calm. So truly, thank you so much. I want to wrap it up just simply because of the time but I do have a very important last question for you, if you don’t mind. Part of my course that I offer at Med School for Moms, I asked every doctor that I interviewed this one question and I just think it’s a really powerful question to really help moms understand what to do and I said if you can whisper just one thing into every mom’s ear the next time their child gets sick, what would you say to them?
Elisa Song 57:07
So the one thing that I want all mamas, papas, grandparents to know is to stay calm and trust that our bodies were designed to move towards the direction of wellness if we give the right support. Our bodies are meant to be well. We should be thriving and our children’s little bodies can know what to do if we are supporting them in the right way. So this is where laying those foundations, really understanding that sure our kids are going to get sick, and some kids are going to develop some chronic conditions. But if we give our little bodies the right little push, it’s going to move in the direction of wellness. So, really trusting that, not entering into illnesses with fear, arming yourself with knowledge, with your chorus. Your doctor mom’s medicine course, I love that you teach that. I teach similar but different things in my everyday holistic pediatrics course. We can never have too much practical knowledge, we can have too much fearful knowledge, but we can never have too much practical knowledge to keep our kids well. When we enter in with knowledge and calm, that’s when we can really do the best for our kids.
Elana Roumell 58:33
I love it. This is just beautiful and a great way to end. For moms listening if you want more information about the work that you do, I highly recommend it. Please go visit your website. It’s HealthyKidsHappyKids.com. We’re gonna have the link in the show notes and your course everyday pediatrics is excellent. It’s actually I would say the only other online resource that I know about at this point that really does help empower moms to really understand and learn this material so that they can feel educated. So I just thank you so much for all your work. We’re both on such similar missions in life, this has been such a great time to spend with you and to connect. I’m so excited to collaborate in the future to just continue to help these moms feel confident about their child’s health and just such great information. I thank you so very much for your time. And we look forward to airing this episode and just continue to share you with our listeners. Thank you.
You’re so welcome. I’m so glad we connected because I know we’ve connected, we connected through Instagram. It kind of took this crisis to finally put us together but I’m so glad and just really still looking forward to continuing to collaborate together because there is not enough knowledge and empowerment for mamas in this world. And I love that we have the same mission and so grateful for you to be spreading this word.
Thank you so much for that. I agree we need more of these holistic pediatricians. I know we can really help inspire so many others so thank you for that. So have a great Sunday. Safe travels back and we’ll definitely have to have you on again soon. Thank you so much for joining us with this episode. I got so much from this and I know you did, too.
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- What Coronavirus is
- How and why it spreads so quickly
- What symptoms to look for
- When to go to the doctor to get tested
- Simple precautions you can take today to protect your family
- Traveling tips
- Dr. Song’s Article: Coronavirus (COVID-19): What a Pediatrician Wants You to Know
- Dr Song’s website: Healthy Kids, Happy Kids
- Learn more about Dr. Song’s Everyday Holistic Pediatrics online course
- Take the free mini course at Dr. Elana’s Med School for Moms
- Learn more about Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program
- Subscribe to Whole Mamas Weekly Pregnancy Email Series
- Follow Steph and Elana on Instagram
- Whole Mamas Podcast Archive
This episode's guest
Holistic mama doc, Dr. Elisa Song, MD is a holistic pediatrician, pediatric functional medicine expert, and mama to 2 crazy fun kids. In her integrative pediatric practice, Whole Family Wellness, she’s helped thousands of kids get to the root causes of their health concerns. She’s helped their parents understand how to help their children thrive–body, mind, and spirit–by integrating conventional pediatrics with functional medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and essential oils. These health concerns have ranged from frequent colds, ear infections, asthma, and eczema; to autism, ADHD, PANS/PANDAS, anxiety, depression, and autoimmune illnesses.
Dr. Song created Healthy Kids, Happy Kids to share her advice and adventures as a holistic pediatrician and mama. Now everyone can have their very own virtual holistic pediatrician! You can connect with her on her website, Healthy Kids Happy Kids, on Facebook and Instagram.