It’s like slow motion. A kid’s nose wrinkles. She sniffs. Her mouth opens. A sneeze is coming. And you know what might happen if that sneeze leads to a bad cold—weeks of nursing one kid after another and yourself back to health. Days missed from school. Days missed from work. Heaps of tissues and a huge dose of misery.
You throw your whole body in front of any other kids around you like a human shield to avoid the wrath of the sneeze.
This is one of the downsides of having a large family. If one person gets sick, it might be a months-long ordeal as the germs have a field day, hopping from one host to the next.
I think I have parenthood-induced germophobia.
But thankfully, it’s not a given that you’ll spend this cold and flu season fighting one illness after another. It is possible to help your family stay healthy if you implement a few habits that will help keep the germs away and immune systems balanced.
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Take off your shoes inside to stay healthy.
“Shoes off, hands washed.” This is our mantra when we walk in the door. Shoes transfer germs and bacteria all throughout the house. You can help your kids stay healthier by having them take their shoes off once they walk in the door. Use socks, slippers, or bare feet when inside, and try to encourage guests to leave their shoes at the door as well.
Wash hands with warm, soapy water for 30 seconds.
To stay healthy, your kids should do this after being outside the home, after sneezing or blowing their nose, after touching something you know to be particularly germy, and always before eating anything. Illnesses often spread by a kid touching something germy and then transferring the germs to his mouth. The CDC estimates, “Handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections.” Kids can sing their ABCs while at the sink to be sure they wash long enough.
Always have hand sanitizer available.
Although washing hands is the preferable route, using hand sanitizer is better than nothing. Keep hand sanitizer around for use at playgrounds, zoos, festivals, church, and other public places where it’s not easy to get to the restroom. (Honestly, the restroom might be another germ party, anyway.) We have clipped mini hand sanitizers to our backpacks, diaper bags, lunch boxes, and purses.
Disinfect after your kids get home from school.
Keep Lysol spray around and disinfect your kids’ backpacks and lunch boxes before you put them away. You can also get in the habit of spraying high-touch areas, such as doorknobs and light switches. Some people go so far as to have their kids change into different clothes after they get home from school. I have to admit, I stopped doing this because it doubled my daughter’s laundry on school days!
Use immune system supplements to stay healthy.
This, for me, has been a game-changer. When I was fed up with being sick all the time, I decided I wanted to find a “magic bullet” that would keep me healthy. I did a lot of research and finally settled on Hyperbiotics Immune, a probiotic that contains an immune system balancing fermented yeast product named EpiCor, along with Vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc. After I started taking it, I noticed that my instances of being sick had drastically decreased. I have recommended it to friends who have then gone on to recommend it to their friends because it works so well!
There is also a children’s EpiCor capsule. Although kids are likely not able to swallow capsules easily, you can break it into yogurt, applesauce, or a smoothie for kids to take a daily immune system booster.
Other immune system supplements to consider:
- NutriFeron: My mom turned me onto this Shaklee immune system supplement. Try taking it when you feel a cold coming on, and it is designed to help your immune system to fight off the germs.
- Elderberry: Many moms swear by elderberry as a natural immune system booster for the whole family. This Cleveland Clinic article mentions small studies that linked elderberry with shortened duration of cold and flu. This formula by Zarbee’s includes other immune system boosting ingredients.
- Probiotic: Keeping your child’s gut healthy can promote overall wellness along with clearing up digestion issues. This one can be used for newborns and up!
Disinfect after family members have been sick.
After a family member has been sick, some simple disinfection routines can help decrease the risk of other family members (or guests) catching the illness.
- Sterilize pacifiers and bottle nipples.
- Change toothbrushes.
- Disinfect toys and stuffed animals used by a sick child.
- Wash bedding, clothing, and towels used by the sick person. Try adding this to your washer.
- Wipe down doorknobs, phones, remote controls, counters, and light switches using Clorox disinfecting wipes.
- If the illness was a stomach virus, use bleach! Specifically, norovirus can survive on surfaces for up to two weeks and can only be killed by bleach.
- Use the sanitizing cycle on your dishwasher to clean eating utensils and plates.
- Open the windows to circulate some fresh air through the house.
Find more great advice in this Today article.
Be sure your child gets enough sleep to stay healthy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the immune system releases proteins during sleep that are needed to fight infections or inflammation. “Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines,” the author shares. “In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.” Be sure you are aware of the optimal number of hours of sleep for your children based on their ages. You can find a helpful chart here.
Reduce or eliminate sugar intake.
Did you know sugar can act as an immunosuppressant? This ABC News article shares that sugar can inhibit the immune system after it is consumed and that viruses and bacteria thrive on sugar. Try to increase your family’s intake of healthy whole foods and decrease sugar intake.
By implementing these habits, you will hopefully see many more days with a healthy family ahead!
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Originally published on October 8, 2018