Its the middle of winter here in Alaska and flu/cold season is in full swing! It is this time of year that I find myself bundling my daughter up a little tighter and becoming more strict about hand washing to avoid as many germs as possible. Every parent hates when their child is sick. Here are 10 simple ways I help my daughter prevent colds and the flu.
Water is extremely important for the health and wellness of our bodies. Our bodies are 50 – 75% water. The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking 6 (for children) – 12 cups of water a day by drinking a little bit at a time throughout the day. It is more beneficial to continually sip water through out the way verses chugging a couple glasses at once. Build a habit of starting your child’s day with a glass of water. Staying hydrated is the most important thing to prevent your body from getting sick.
Sleep allows the body to fight off sickness, heal and rejuvenate. This study shows that someone who gets 7 or less hours of sleep is 3 times more likely to catch a cold verses someone getting over 8 hours of sleep at night. Our body is working even harder to fight off any sickness when we sleep because of that we need to encourage our children to get as much as possible. It is recommended that children get in between 10 – 14 hours of sleep each night depending on their age. If your child is not getting enough sleep try establishing a consistent bedtime routine.
Fruits and Vegetables
We all heard as a child “Eat your veggies! They will help you grow big and strong”. This is one of those sayings that turned out to be completely true. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals that boost our immune systems. It can be extremely difficult at times to get your children to eat their vegetables. Constantly give them the option to try new food. Even if they do not eat it the first time, the more exposure they are given, the more likely they are to eat it. There is also always the ability to hide fruits and veggies into foods they will eat. Make a yummy smoothie or add chopped up spinach to a pasta dish. Vegetables are a game changer no matter how you get them into your child’s body.
Sometimes our healthy (or unhealthy) diets are not giving our bodies the appropriate amount of vitamins. For example, in Alaska, everyone has an extremely low vitamin d levels, because the sun does not come out that often during the winter. It is important to substitute in vitamin d to keep your immune system at full strength. Check with your doctor to see if your child should be taking any vitamins.
Elderberries have so many health benefit. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities help keep the immune system strong. Since elderberries are extremely bitter it is easiest to consume them in syrup form. Beware when shopping for elderberry syrup that you stay away from ones with high sugar content, especially cane sugar (it can limit the effect it has on the body). This is what I recommend (thank you Rebekah for the amazing recommendation). It is made with organic elderberries with raw honey, propolis, and organic echinacea.
Being outside helps boost the immune system. It can lower anxiety/depression, reduce inflammation in the body, lower blood pressure and decrease fatigue. For toddlers especially, eating (I know gross) /playing in the dirt gives their immune system a huge boost. Children should also be encouraged to go barefoot (when appropriate). Here is a book all about how being barefoot in nature will improve your all around health.
Avoid Going Outside with Wet Hair
This suggestion has mostly been labeled a myth all over the internet because going out into the cold with wet hair cannot actually get you sick only bacteria can do that. Our head is usually where colds and the flu start. The eyes, ears, mouth and nose are all entry points for germs to climb in. Wet hair plus cold air can drop the temperature of your head and make those entry areas more susceptible.
Cover Up in Cold Weather
Keeping the nose covered in cold weather is essential to prevent colds and flu. Our nose is one of the main tools for fighting off bad bacteria by not allowing them to pass through the nostrils into the body. When the nose in met with colder temperatures its response time slows down which in turn lowers its effectiveness. Cover up your children’s faces in the cold weather. Scarves, face masks and blankets all come in handy during the colder months.
This will be the number one recommendation to prevent colds and the flu from any doctor, ever. Children touch everything, literately everything and will usually put those hands in their mouth or nose exposing those entry points to what germs are on their hands.
Clean Often, But Not Too Often
There is a healthy balance when it comes to cleaning. If a house is completely sterile and a child’s body is never exposed to germs and their immune system does not have a chance to build and grow stronger. At the same time it is also important to clean, especially areas that have had a ton of contact from unknown areas, such as grocery carts (always wipe them down with the free disinfectant wipes they provide).
Boosting the immune system takes conscious thought and effort. Just because it is cold season that doesn’t mean your child ever has to catch one.