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Holiday time is filled with fun, cheer, presents, and unfortunately, our kids getting sick. With all the holiday travel and parties, it’s not uncommon for one of us to come down with a viral illness, then quickly spread it to the rest of the family. As parents we know the usual and very good advice of washing your kids’ and your own hands (especially before mealtimes). But there are also other preventative measures you can take to avoid getting sick yourself or having a sick child this holiday season.
Here are some less conventional pieces of advice I give parents to help keep their kids healthy over the holidays.
1. Encourage kids to work up a sweat. In fact, being active helps reduce the number of colds and viruses you get, perhaps because exercise helps to increase circulation and infection-fighting immune cells. Talk about the perfect reason to get outdoors and play a game of tag, go ice skating, or plan a family ski trip!
2. Get plenty of sleep. There’s a strong connection between good health and being well rested. Sleep helps your brain function properly, is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels, helps to reduce your risk of certain diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and more. If your kids are anything like mine, they are VERY early to rise, so keeping an early and set bedtime, even over the holidays, is important.
3. Don’t touch your face. Germs are spread by touching your nose, mouth, and eyes — so encourage your kids to keep their hands off their faces.
4. Let fresh air into your home. Opening your windows once a day, even for a short period of time, can really improve the air quality of your home. One reason people get sicker during the winter is that we are all sharing indoor air. You can also consider investing in an air purifier for your home.
5. Never reuse tissues. Once it’s used once, throw it away immediately, rather than tucking it into a pocket or your purse.
6. Eat a healthful, balanced diet. While treats are okay, it is important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. Look for food with antioxidants, zinc, and vitamin C to help boost your kids’ immune systems (think broccoli, citrus fruits, and berries). Vitamin D is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Having trouble getting them proper nutrition when you’re out and about? Try a delicious fruit and vegetable pouch.
7. Spice up their foods. Your children don’t need to have a bland diet. Add some health-promoting herbs and spices to their diets, such as rosemary and turmeric, to help fight off infections naturally.
8. Change toothbrushes regularly. The American Dental Association recommends changing toothbrushes every three to four months. It is important to wash your kids’ toothbrushes well after brushing and to store their brushes upright and let air dry to prevent bacterial growth. If your child is feeling sick, you should consider changing the toothbrush more frequently, especially after strep throat. Also, never let your kids share toothbrushes.
9. Keep your children’s nasal passages moist. Dry, irritated nasal passages are the ideal environment for cold and flu viruses. So, have your kids use a nasal saline gel twice a day and put a cool mist humidifier in your child’s room. It is very important to remember to keep the humidifier clean so it doesn’t become a breeding ground for mold.
10. Give your kids lots of liquids to drink. Try drinking chamomile tea with honey. Honey has been shown to have antibacterial properties and it coats the throat, which is an added bonus. Just remember that children must be over one year of age to have honey, and it’s important to make sure the tea is lukewarm so children don’t burn themselves.
11 . Make sure their skin is well hydrated. Hydration is not only for your oral intake but also for keeping your children’s skin and lips well hydrated. Dry, cracked lips and skin are more likely to get infected due to the breakdown of the natural barriers of protection our skin has. Avoid spending a long time in the bath, which can be drying, and use an organic, dye-free body wash and moisturizer.
12. Try a probiotic. There is some thought that daily probiotics can help prevent illness. You can get probiotics by eating yogurt or by adding them into your kids’ diets in the form of a liquid, powder, or chewable depending on their age. Probiotics are good for parents as well.
13. Carry your own pen with you. At the grocery store, doctor’s office, the airport — you name it — shared pens can have lots of germs on them. By carrying your own pen with you, you can avoid those germs. How simple is this trick?!