Flu Savvy: How to Stay Healthy This Fall

It’s that time of year again: flu season. A battle for every mom and especially for moms of kids with compromised immune systems. The flu vaccine is one line of defense against sickness but since it only protects against a select few strains, additional precautions are warranted. Anyone, vaccinated or not, can transmit germs that cause the flu. But before you become a complete germaphobe, let’s look at the most effective tools at avoiding germs and strengthening the immune system.

First Line of Defense: Avoiding Germs

  • Avoiding Germ Fests: unfortunately the top two places to get exposed to germs are: school/daycare and offices. School wins the prize for the widest spectrum of constant exposure. So unless you are planning on working from home or homeschooling, be sure to utilize other tricks for avoiding & killing germs while in those places. Be liberal with the hand sanitizer and hand washing during those trips and after.
  • The Right Way to Sneeze: I’m a Mythbusters fangirl. If you have Netflix streaming I highly recommend watching the episode about proper sneezing technique (S9:E6, Mini Myth Madness) or YouTube. It shows kids why sneezing into their elbow is so important. It protects you and others around you. If you sneeze into your hand you transfer all the germs you have on your hands to your face and vice versa.
  • Speaking of hands & faces, this is a great time of year to coach your kids to keep their hands off their face, away from their eyes, out of their mouth and out of their nose. One of the primary ways we share germs is by transferring them from our hands to our mucous membranes and visa versa.
  • Another Mythbusters episode (Flu Fiction, S8:E6) shows how casual contact in social settings spreads germs. It also illustrates how to avoid germs regardless of how germ-y other people are (watch Kari).

Playing Offense: Killing Germs

  • It goes without saying that proper handwashing is crucial. Teaching children to wash their hands can be fun! First of all, pick a short song… any song that they like and remember. They will need to sing it twice while they wash their hands. Wet their hands, apply soap and scrub the soap (above the sink, not under water) before rinsing. Make sure the scrub the “in-betweens” and backs of the hands, not just the palms. Ask them to sing the song once for scrubbing and again for rinsing. Both steps are equally important: we need to dislodge & kill the germs plus get them thoroughly rinsed off the hands.
  • Hand Sanitizer, or as we call it “hanitizer”, is a great second line of defense. Alcohol & triclosan based hanitizer can be very drying and irritating especially for kids. Our family prefers the CleanWell brand which is alcohol free & triclosan free (I also love their hand soap). Teach your kids to use it before snacking or after going through crowded public places. Hanitizer works best when you rub your hands vigorously while it drys.
  • Sanitizing Your House: The most important places to clean are: door knobs, appliance handles, light switches, toilet & sink handles, the TV remote, your computer keyboard, desks and your cell phone. Anyplace you touch with your hands a lot. Also replace your kitchen sponge very frequently and microwave it wet for 2 minutes at least twice a week. Wash pillowcases frequently during flu season.
  • How to Disinfect Surfaces: You can use a disinfecting wipe or spray. Either way the surface must stay wet for 4-10 minutes (depending on the product) in order for it to disinfect. This means you may need to wipe several times to get the proper kill level. I usually work in one area at a time, like the kitchen, walking around in a circle and wiping each surface over and over again. I do this once a week during flu season.

2nd Line of Defense: Strengthening the Immune System

Note: if your child is currently receiving chemotherapy, please check with your oncologist before giving any immune boosting supplements. Different oncologists have different protocols regarding supplementation. The rest of your family can take them as needed to avoid bringing illness into the home. It’s easier to keep your child healthy when you are healthy!

  • Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that plays a large role in immune function. It is produced naturally by the body when your bare skin is exposed to the sun. During the winter this is harder than normal, so taking a high quality D3 vitamin is advisable. Most multivitamins do not contain nearly enough vitamin D. Click here to read more and see recommended doses. It’s important to get your vitamin D levels checked on a regular basis.
  • Elderberry extract: one study found it reduced flu symptoms and shorted duration by four days
  • Zinc: another vitamin crucial to healthy immune function. You can take zinc as a lozenge, syrup, tablet or in food (oysters!). Despite recalls I personally love Zicam. I use it as soon as I feel any nose/throat tickle coming on.
  • If you choose not to get the flu vaccine, you have another immunization option: Homeoprophylaxis. It’s worth researching.
  • Eat immune boosting foods: blueberries, pastured eggs, bone broth,
  • Reduce sugar intake: sugar decreases the ability of your white blood cells to kill germs by 40%
  • Get regular exercise: one study found that people who exercised regularly (five or more days a week) cut their risk of having a cold by close to 50 percent

photo credit: MissMessie via photopin cc
photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

About Emily

Hi, my name is Emily. I’m a wife, mother, christian, momcologist, doula, writer, nerd, entrepreneur and dreamer. I like Apple products, chocolate, books, lists, being pregnant and the color purple. I fancy myself as a quirky combination of dreamy Anne Shirley and feisty Scarlett O’Hara but in a schizophrenic sort of way. Read on...

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