Winter is here and with it comes the likelihood of illness due to cold and the seasonal flu. According to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colds and the flu share similar symptoms. The flu, which affects 35 to 50 million Americans each year, is worse than the common cold. Symptoms often include a fever, body aches, chills, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, extreme tiredness, and dry cough. Colds tend to be milder than the flu, but here are some simple suggestions to keep your family healthy during the fall and winter months.
Immunize. If you haven't already vaccinated your family, now is the time to get your annual flu shot. The CDC recommends for everyone older than 6 months get a flu vaccine which will help protect against the three most common strains that their research indicates will be most prevalent this year.
Practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands using soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, ensuring that the soap lathers and you scrub all surfaces. If you don't have access to a sink and soap, a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is just as effective in killing cold and flu germs. Since cold and flu germs are spread by touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, take care to avoid touching these areas of your face. Coughing and sneezing into your elbow or covering your nose and mouth with a tissue will also help prevent the spread of germs.
Stay warm when outside. Getting fresh air and exercise can help keep your children healthy as long as they are properly dressed. Be sure kids are dressed in layers of light, warm clothing and wear mittens, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots to keep their extremities warm. Also mind the wind chill factor that can make outside temperatures much colder than a thermometer might report.
Eat healthy foods. Drinking more orange juice for its abundance in Vitamin C, taking an multivitamin, or pumping little bodies full of foods with antiviral properties can't hurt. Natural health expert Andrew Weil, M.D. believes that certain fresh fruits and vegetables can boost the immune system. These include cherries, berries, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, citrus juices, bananas, broccoli, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Chicken, and other broth based soups, that incorporate vegetables can really nurse you back to health. The probiotics found in yogurt can aid the health of your immune system and spices like cinnamon has antiviral properties against the flu. Look for ways to incorporate a variety of different foods into your family's meals to maximize their healthy properties.
Handle and prepare foods safely. Wash hands and surfaces used to prepare foods often to prevent cross contamination that could result in food related illnesses such as salmonella. Use a thermometer to ensure that meat is cooked to the proper temperature. Refrigerate leftovers promptly especially since perishables shouldn't be left out for more than two hours.
Manage stress. The holidays are often a busy time and it is important that you keep your family's calendar manageable for every member. Take a look at your child's schedule to ensure that there are some free afternoons mixed in with after school activities and classes. Avoid over-committing by prioritizing and realizing that it is OK to turn down invitations in favor of time at home relaxing. Balance work, home, and play and don't be afraid to ask family and friends for help as needed.
Leticia Barr likes to provide her children's preschool and first grade teacher with extra hand sanitizer and boxes of tissues during cold and flu season. Leticia writes about technology for families on her Tech Savvy Mama site.
Originally published in 2010.
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