Starting school is truly a milestone and stimulates a child’s body, mind, heart and, well, immune system. The chill of Fall and Winter air in the Midwest, reins in not only the holiday season but the flu season. This year, we felt the cold, dry air earlier and thus were tossed into the trenches earlier. Experts have noted that this flu season (2017) has been worse than in years passed and will peak at Christmas. This is a relief for a Mom of five- knowing that reprieve awaits.
I swear we have all had the sniffles since that first week of school, but the last 6 weeks have been especially bad. From croup to the latest 24-hour stomach bug, the V5’s immune systems have been challenged. This warranted a post for other parents who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. While the young ones appear to be somewhat energy-immune to runny noses, fevers, seal-barking coughs, malaise and nausea; it is a good sign to me that they still want to run, jump and play. One knows it is bad, when all their child wants to do is snuggle.
What can we do?
- Practice Hand Hygiene. Teaching children to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water at transitions in routine at an early age is very important. Pausing when coming home or inside from playing and always washing before meals and snacks can be a great protective strategy. Viruses enter the body through the nose, eyes and mouth so keeping hands clean coupled with keeping hands clear of these body parts can keep the cold and flu viruses out.
- Don’t Share Germs. Kids are notoriously not good at sharing, except when it comes to germs. Teaching children to not share their straw, cup, silverware, napkin, toothbrush, etc. can be helpful. Also, teaching them to cough and sneeze into their elbow [Vampire Sneeze] can protect others around them. Washing bed sheets, blankets and those favorite stuffed animals and toys weekly can also help to keep their beds from becoming a breeding ground for bad bugs.
- Stay Active inside and out. Most don’t have to tell kiddos to move but it can be hard to maintain summer activity levels in the winter chill. However, research supports that moderate physical activity can cut cold and flu occurrences by 25 to 50% by boosting the immune system and increasing the circulation of the body’s natural cellular defense. We have found that the Just Dance, Indoor Recess, and Go Noodle are a great way to get our kids’ blood pumping. Also, indoor obstacle courses, hide-and-go-seek and of course bundling up to get outside are all great ways to stay active year-round.
- Catch those Zzz’s. Inadequate sleep can increase a person’s risk of getting a cold or flu by 200%. Most infants and toddlers need 11-15 hours of sleep each day and preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours. This is collective between evening and naps. While sleep needs do decrease with time, most adults still need 7 to 9 hours each night.
- Eat your Vitamins. There are an abundance of over-the-counter immune-boosting supplements but nothing beats getting your vitamins and minerals from solid food sources. Many know that Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to keep the body healthy. Amping up vitamin C from citrus fruits, berries, melons, tomatoes, leafy greens and broccoli. Many may not know that zinc has been shown to decrease the length of colds and help to prevent illness. Adequate zinc is also important from lean meat, chicken and seafood, as well as, beans and nuts.
- Make a Flu Shot a Family Affair. This may be a controversial suggestion because many believe their vaccinations do not help or actually make them sick. This is unproven. Some feel ill after getting the shot because the body is bolstering its immune response. It also takes 2 weeks for the vaccination to provide protection so, if an individual encounters the flu virus or a cold within those 2 weeks, the shot is not to blame. We feel that the shot is much better than 2 weeks of the flu.
So, those are just a few suggestions to help stay well during the cold and flu season.
If and when we get sick, getting well is the priority to keep the duration of the illness as short as possible. During these days, rest and rehydration are tried and true. Well wishes to all!