Every year, all around the country, parents and children look forward to the holiday season. It's a time of year filled with family, fun events, school parties and so much more. However, what most parents don't look forward to is the colds and viruses that come to visit during those cold winter months.
Once one family member becomes ill, the sickness spreads like wildfire through the entire family. Fortunately, there are some things you can do that will keep your kiddos, and in turn you, healthy this winter.
1. Encourage Hand Washing – Lots of It!
Washing your hands is a tried and true illness prevention strategy. Studies have found that washing your hands regularly can reduce respiratory illnesses, such as colds, by as much as 21%. Get your kids into the habit of washing their hands at a young age and encourage them to do so anytime they touch a door handle or surfaces that others might have touched. While this won't prevent all illnesses, as some are airborne, it will help reduce the risk.
2. Swap Out that Old Toothbrush
If your child has ever had strep throat, the medical staff likely told you to throw out your kiddo's old toothbrush and buy a new one. This is because germs can linger on the surface of the brush and reinfect your child again and again. Even if the illness didn't rise to the level of strep, go ahead and replace your child's toothbrush after they get sick to be on the safe side.
3. More Fruits and Veggies
Another helpful change is to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your child's diet. Every year, around 20% of the US population gets a cold. Reduce this statistic by getting all the nutrients your body needs to fight off infection. Ramping up vitamin-C rich foods and adding vegetables is healthy for your body and helps it run at optimum levels. Dark green and bright orange is a smart focus for winter. This includes foods such as spinach, kale, carrots, oranges and broccoli.
4. Throw Out the Juice
At the same time you're adding more fruit, try to avoid serving it as juice. Studies show that a glass of orange juice can have as many grams of sugar as a soda. A child's body may react the same way to the OJ as it would to a Coca-Cola. Instead, have your child eat whole fruit whenever possible.
5. Add Vitamin D
Our bodies can't naturally produce Vitamin D without sunlight. Having shorter days means that there are fewer opportunities to get out in that sun to help our bodies produce enough of this vital vitamin. Studies have proven that Vitamin D is very effective at preventing the flu and avoiding respiratory infections. Some options to ensure the whole family is getting enough Vitamin D is to take supplements, eat egg yolks and drink milk fortified with Vitamin D.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Have teenagers in your home? They may not be getting the full amount of sleep they need. Losing out on rest can make you tired, cranky and even make your immune system weaker. It is vital that kids get in a full eight to nine hours (or maybe even more for teenagers). Stress that there is no shame in taking a nap if you didn't sleep well or are feeling tired. Set firm bedtimes and do your best to stick to them. Even if your child can't sleep, insist they rest their bodies and eyes, so they at least get some downtime for their body to repair itself and recuperate.
7. Drink More Water
Insist that your child drink enough water to stay hydrated. Allowing your body to dehydrate opens you up to illness because water helps transport nutrients to your cells and helps get rid of toxins that might otherwise build up in your body. To figure out how much water to drink, divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water.
8. Consider Preventative Medications
Unless you are religiously or morally opposed to vaccines, take a look at what's available and what might help your child and your family. Discuss with your pediatrician if you should consider a flu shot for your child and if all of your child's vaccines are up to date. If your child does contract the flu, get to the doctor within 48 hours of the start of symptoms, so that the doctor can administer Tamiflu. This can be especially important for children with compromised immune systems and other health issues.
9. Wipe Down Everything
Germs often spread because someone touches a surface a sick person has touched and then rubs their eyes, or something along those lines. You can prevent the rapid spread of illnesses amongst family members by isolating the person who is ill and keeping everything wiped down with bleach or antibacterial wipes.
Consider anything the person with the sickness has touched, such as door handles, the bathroom faucet, light switches and kitchen appliances. Wipe, wipe, and wipe again. And speaking of spreading germs, teach your kiddos to sneeze into a tissue or their elbows rather than hands that can spread those germs around.
10. Add Some Friendly Bacteria
Studies have shown that adding probiotics can increase cold and flu resistance, with occurrences of fever in children reduced by 72.7% in those who received two different probiotics - lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium animalis subsplactis. Just stir the probiotics into yogurt, making for a tasty and healthy treat.
Keeping your kiddos healthy this winter might seem a like a daunting task, but with a bit of education and a lot of determination, you can increase your entire family's health and avoid some of those nasty bugs that are floating around.