Posted on 11/25/2013 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
Now that back-to-school is in full swing, parents across the country are on high alert hoping their families stay healthy during the cold weather months. But, instead of just hoping, how about trying some preventative measures? As it turns out, the best place to start is with our own children.
In fact, a June, 2013 study1 conducted in the United Kingdom explains the phenomenon, noting that children are at the top of the list for number of “social contacts” per day, making them most at-risk for catching and transmitting infection. A “social contact” was defined in the study as having a face-to-face conversation within around six feet or skin-on-skin physical touch with another person.
Don’t despair! Here are five key things you can do to protect your entire family this winter.
It sounds so simple, but a recent study revealed that only about 5% of Americans wash their hands properly. So, teaching your kids to wash their hands thoroughly (singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice is a good measure of the right length of time) is a great way to keep from sharing those unwanted germs coming from their many “social contacts.” Not only “how’” but also “when” is extremely important when it comes to hand washing. Key reminder times are before and after eating meals, after using playground equipment, after using the restroom and after coughing or sneezing.
And that goes for you, too. Keep in mind that your own 10 digits often bring those unwanted bugs into the body, so keeping them clean is just as important – whether you’re under the weather or not. Without clean hands, you could actually be the one who infects your child instead of the other way around. Want a short hand guide? Wet (with water). Rub (with soap for 15-20 seconds). Rinse (water, again). Dry (fully). October 15th was Global Hand-Washing Day. Click Power is in Your Hands to learn more.
Cranking up the heater to combat outside cold can dry out indoor air. Many of us know that dry air can lead to potential hazards like sinus or throat problems, nosebleeds and general dehydration, so we’re bringing out the humidifiers to raise the relative humidity in our homes. This year, however, comes with a Warning – the CPSC just issued an important recall of many major humidifiers (over 2 million units from 12 brands) because of fire hazards. So take the opportunity to check whether yours is included. No humidifier? Partially filling up the bath top with hot water can bring moist air to your home. To help prevent the circulation of dust, mold and other respiratory irritants, make sure to change your air filters regularly. Can’t remember the last time you changed the AC/furnace filter? You’re not alone. One easy tip is to simply write on the furnace the date the filter needs to be changed next.
Keeping the home clean is another excellent way to help avoid the spread of germs among family members, especially when it comes to oft-touched surfaces like door knobs, drawer handles, the refrigerator, light switches and sink fixtures. Make sure to keep these surfaces clean by using antibacterial cleansers or wipes, and if you notice any other frequently used items in the house, e.g. the remote control or family computer, attack those too.
To help make it easier on everyone, incorporate the daily wipe down into your nightly routine. Give everyone who is not sick an assignment (Sally does the doorknobs, Dad takes electronics and you swipe the light switches) so it’s done quickly and more importantly – consistently.
Keep in mind that some favorite toys and stuffed animals that get shared among children can also be thrown into the dishwasher or washing machine (in hot water) to help reduce germs and other bacteria.
One of the main differences between warm weather living and cold weather living comes in the form of access to foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals that help keep your immune system strong. During spring and summer months, kids spend an abundance of time outside soaking up Vitamin D and enjoying nutritionally-dense fresh fruits and vegetables. Health.com notes that a wide variety of vitamin-packed produce is readily available in winter including radishes, blood oranges, persimmons, snow peas, cabbage, rhubarb, chestnuts, artichokes, kale and cranberries. Another step in the right direction, and one that is frequently recommended by naturopaths, is reducing or eliminating processed sugar, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, and cutting out refined carbohydrates that have been shown to correlate with poor cognitive performance in children and cause blood sugar imbalances.
For some people who are not able to eat healthy every day, it may be helpful to supplement your family’s diet in order to keep your immune system in strong, working order. Start by seeking out a dietary supplements formulated with ingredients supported by published research. Such products include Healthy Origins® EpiCor®, Natrol Immune Boost® and Garden of Life Herbal Immune Balance Daily®, all of which contain EpiCor, an ingredient that has been shown to reinforce a first and second line of active immune defense, increase antioxidant protection and support good gut health.
Clean Off the Schedule
The winter months tend to be some of the busiest of the year with holiday celebrations, trips and family get-togethers. So, take advantage of the opportunity to stay at home if you or your kids should pick up an illness. The CDC recommends that people with flu-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever, or signs of the fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
By taking advantage of these five cold-weather season tips you can help keep you and your kids healthy and happy all winter long. Because when you keep your kids healthy, the rest of the family is more likely to stay that way as well.
For more tips, visit www.epicorimmune.com
1. Leon Danon, et al., Proc. R. Soc. B, 2013 280, 20131037, published June 26, 2013