It’s that time again…almost as soon as chilly weather sets in, cold and flu viruses start circulating and plague us with runny noses, coughs, fevers and body aches that seem to come back for another round as soon as the last one finishes. But while it feels like we’re at the mercy of every virus that blows through, there are things we can do to lessen the symptoms, or maybe, if we’re vigilant enough, even have them miss us completely. I’ve found that practicing strict hygiene habits and staying one step ahead of colds and flu by eating well and taking the right supplements goes a long way in minimizing illnesses in my household.
It Starts With Clean Hands
If you still have to remind your kids to wash their hands every time they use the bathroom, then you might need to do some extra nagging during cold and flu season. Washing hands more often when a virus is circulating at school or in your home is crucial to lessening the chances of it spreading. Make sure step stools are available so your kids can reach the sink. Teach them how to use the taps to wet their hands in warm water (cold is fine, too), lather between fingers and front and backs of hands with soap, scrub, rinse and dry with a clean towel as often as they can remember to do so. Singing the Happy Birthday song twice over while scrubbing is an easy way to remember how long hand washing should last. If you’re in the car or somewhere with no access to water, a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will help protect you against most, but not all germs.
Kids rub their eyes, put their fingers in their mouths and like to explore their noses. Cold viruses start in the lining of the nasal passages and sinuses and can easily make their way there through the tear ducts. Keeping hands clean and out of their faces is one secret to protection.
A Lesson in Coughing
When I was growing up I was taught to cover my mouth with my hand when I coughed. My kids were taught to catch sneezes and coughs into their elbows, which makes much more sense. Cold viruses aren’t spread in particles through the air, but kids that play in close proximity to each other can spread viruses by unknowingly coughing into the faces of their playmates or into their hands and sharing toys. Coughing is the body’s way of loosening mucus in the lungs and shouldn’t be discouraged but instead directed to an area where contact with others is minimized.
Increase Immune-Boosting Foods
Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are high in phytonutrients, which may increase the body’s production of white blood cells (that fight infection), and interferon, an antibody that surrounds cell surfaces and insulates them against viruses. Making sure your child has at least five servings of fruits and vegetables like carrots, oranges, green beans and strawberries that are typically high in phytonutrients like Vitamin C and carotenoids may help give them added protection against colds and flu.
And while you’re increasing fruits and vegetables, remember to cut back on refined sugars, which are immune system suppressors and lower defenses against infectious disease. Did you know that one teaspoon of sugar can compromise your child’s immune function by 50 percent for 24 to 48 hours?
Vitamin deficiency and a decreased immune system go hand in hand. A fun way to make sure your kids are getting their optimum daily allowance is to include a serving of ND Shake Kids sometime throughout the day. Whether it’s with their morning breakfast or in a smoothie as an after-school snack, ND Shake Kids is a nutritious and filling treat to keep vitamin and mineral stores topped up and immune systems functioning at their best during cold and flu season, or at any time of year.
Research shows that families that participate in regular physical activity, even in the cold, keep their energy levels up and stress levels down, which are sometimes key components when it comes to avoiding colds and flu. Plus, being outdoors means also getting a dose of Vitamin D, which some researchers believe is key in helping to prevent seasonal viruses. If your winter weather is grey and dull, supplementing with Vitamin D is always a good idea.
Get Enough Sleep
Being back at school and resuming sports and dance classes can delay bedtimes and lead to lack of sleep. Studies show that chronic sleep loss has an effect on maintaining a healthy immune system and that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after exposure to a virus, like the common cold. Lack of Z’s can also affect the rate at which you recover from illness if you do happen to get sick. In winter months, it definitely helps to stick to a strict bedtime and make sure your school-aged kids get their required 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night.
So, washing hands, eating lots of fruits and vegetables and staying active and getting the required hours of sleep sounds like a good natural prescription for good health to me. But because I want extra insurance for my family, I keep the following supplements on hand in my medicine cupboard, just in case:
Oil of Oregano – If anyone in my family even mentions a sore throat, they get a few drops of oil of oregano mixed on a teaspoon with a bit of honey to lessen symptoms and duration if they do end up catching a cold
D3 Drops – Taking vitamin D3 daily helps to strengthen our immune systems and is especially important during the dark winter months
Cough + Cold Tinctures for Adults and Kids – A natural herbal tincture that contains Echinacea (number one natural cold-buster) plus a whole host of infection-fighting and symptom calming herbs
Cold + Flu Homeopathics for Adults and Kids – A formula to relieve dry cough, fever and pain that comes with influenza