Cold and flu season with kids. What remedies can work for healthy kids and families? Here are some best practices for preventive health and diet for your household this year.
It’s official: we’re smack dab in the middle of the dreaded cold and flu season.
Although it’s inevitable every year, the germiest months are never a welcome season. When you have kids in daycare, school, or other social settings, your probability of contracting something disgusting becomes 100%. (We just made that statistic up, but it seems about right in our experiences).
If you’re wondering what you can do about it, here are some of our best evidence-based tips for keeping your household as healthy as possible this year.
7 Best Practices for Preventing Cold and Flu
From personal hygiene to diet and lifestyle habits, here are some of the best things you can do to help keep cold and flu viruses away as much as you can this winter.
1. Wash your hands
We all learn about hand-washing in preschool, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is the gold standard when it comes to staying healthy. 🙂
Washing your hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and returning home from going somewhere can lower your chances of harmful germs entering your body and making you sick.
Generally speaking, washing your hands for around 20 seconds, or around the time it takes to sing the ABCs twice, is a good place to start.
Recent studies have shown that you don’t need to buy antibacterial soap for hand-washing to be effective either. Buying plain old soap is effective for killing germs and may even be a better idea when it comes to the antibiotic resistance crisis.
2. Teach healthy germ hygiene habits
It’s never too early to start teaching your kids easy things to do on a daily basis to keep cold germs away, especially when they start going to school, attending daycare, or basically just existing in this world.
In addition to washing their hands, you can teach them how to sneeze into their elbows instead of their hands, to cover their mouth when they cough… and to keep their fingers out of their nose and mouth as much as possible.
This also means putting the kibosh on any typical germ-filled kid habits, like sharing toothbrushes, utensils, and cups.
3. Get a flu shot
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the flu shot is one of the best things you can do to lower your family’s chance of coming down with the influenza virus every year.
Although the flu shot appears to be most effective among children over the age of two years and in healthy adults, your child can start getting a flu shot when she is six months old.
While it’s true that the flu shot has varying efficacy – ranging from 10-60% effective every year, due to the variability in virus strains – we recommend it annually for healthy families and children of appropriate age.
4. Eat a healthy diet
This is of course something we recommended year-round, but eating your fruits and vegetables during the winter months can be especially protective.
Incorporating more antioxidants into your diet has been shown to help keep germs at bay. Furthermore, micronutrients like vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, and B12, folic acid, iron, selenium, and zinc are important for immunity.
Plant foods are excellent sources of these nutrients and disease-fighting compounds. Some of the best plants to keep around your house this winter are green leafy vegetables and colorful berries, either fresh or frozen!
Sometimes making raw fruits and vegetables easily accessible for kids is an easy way to encourage their consumption. Check out this article for some great ways to help kids eat more healthy plant foods.
5. Try elderberry (adults only)
Elderberry is a fruit that has been used in alternative medicine for thousands of years, for purposes like stimulating the immune system and fighting influenza. Elderberry is rich in potent antioxidants, such as quercetin, as well as pigmented anthocyanins that can support immunity.
Some people report success when using elderberry to reduce flu symptoms. A 2019 study done among 180 participants found that elderberry was effective in substantially reducing upper respiratory symptoms, suggesting that it may be a safe alternative to commonly used drugs and possibly even have applications in preventive health.
Other studies have found elderberry to be useful in inhibiting the growth of H. pylori bacteria as well as some viruses. Animal studies have suggested elderberry can boost white blood cells and potentially improve immune defense.
However, although evidence is lacking of elderberry being harmful for children under 18 years old, there is also not enough evidence to suggest that it is safe for infants and children, or pregnant and lactating mothers. We tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to babes.
6. Encourage restful sleep
Finally having a second of alone time at the end of the day isn’t the only reason to encourage good sleep habits for your kids.
Sleep is the time that your body repairs damage and resets, reducing inflammation and targeting potential threats to health. Your immune system does a lot of work through the night.
How much sleep is recommended? Studies indicate that sleeping fewer than six hours per night could be detrimental to your health, and that somewhere between seven and nine hours is ideal. Keeping your kids in a predictable sleep routine as much as possible all year long may help keep them healthy.
7. Stay hydrated
Fluids shouldn’t just be encouraged after your child has already come down with a cold or flu. The human body is made largely of water, and needs fluids to flush out toxins.
Dehydration can happen anytime, and being dehydrated may also prevent the body from working at its best capacity to stay healthy.
Plain water is best as the primary source of hydration, but we also like making homemade popsicles, smoothies, and water-rich fruits like melon, berries, and oranges a regular part of our household.
Cold and flu season with kids can be especially challenging. Incorporating some of these best practices for health, like teaching healthy hygiene habits, encouraging good sleep, and eating an antioxidant-rich diet, can help keep germs at bay in your household this year. Here’s to healthy kids this year!
Chime in: What are some of your favorite ways to keep your household healthy during cold and flu season?
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