Keeping Your Children Healthy this Winter: Preventing colds and flus
So here it is, the onset of “snot season” in Australia. If you have small children who attend daycare, particularly if you have more than one, you might be bracing yourself for a long hard winter. Last year our household was hit hard, with months of green noses and many days spent at home with sick kids. I honestly couldn’t keep track of where one cold ended and another began; my two children seemed to share the love very easily (fortunately not with us!) We have asthma in our household too, so we have an extra reason to be anxious. But fear not – I have done my research on how to maximise the healthy, snot-free days, and keep those viruses away. I hope it will help your household too.
Preventing colds and flus
1. Handwashing. All. The. Time.
I’ve said it before and I won’t stop saying it – handwashing is the best defence against those germies. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not coughing into someone’s face that is the most infectious – it’s touching doorknobs, computer keyboards, phones etc that have been contaminated with nice festering viruses. Be scrupulous with hand-washing, carry alcohol sanitiser for when you can’t get to a tap, and disinfect surfaces and toys frequently. I know it’s hard to police in children, especially when they’re all sharing the petri dish called daycare, but anything you can do is a step in the right direction – including keeping yourself germ-free so you can look after those poor kidlets. GPs don’t get sick from all the coughing people that walk into their surgery because they wash their hands after every patient. You too can protect yourself – get thee to a sink!
2. Fight the germ wars with nice bacteria.
That’s probiotics to you – Lactobacillus rhamnosus, acidophilus and GG, and Bifidobacterium animalis to be exact. These lovely friendly bacteria been shown to reduce the risk of getting coughs and colds, shorten the duration of colds, and reduce the number of sick days in preschoolers attending daycare. We trialled Inner Health Plus last year, sadly we still had plenty of colds to keep us busy, and it’s hard to see how we could have had more sick days but… give it a go!
3. Vitamin D
Something we’re all lower in over winter, and which may partly account for the increased susceptibility to colds. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of getting the flu in school children. Vitamin D is best given with dinner or a meal. Also, don’t forget to send the kids outside whenever there is a sunny day too. Oh, and a trip to the tropics is a GREAT way to get those levels up! Doctor’s orders, ha ha!
4. Dose up on garlic
The evidence isn’t very strong, but garlic is safe when eaten as a food (at high doses it can cause thinning of the blood and bleeding problems). Sneak some garlic into your kids’ dinner (e.g. home made garlic bread or garlicky soup) and you might reduce the risk of them getting a cold.
Treating cold and flu symptoms
Vitamin C may reduce the duration of colds, as might zinc lozenges. Echinacea is controversial – it may only reduce cold symptoms by a small degree if taken immediately at the onset, and it can cause allergic reactions so beware (and it’s not suitable for children under 2 years). Honey (half-2 teaspoons) has been shown to decrease night time cough in preschoolers when given at bedtime. Garlic may also help reduce duration of colds – someone once told me to rub garlic over my baby’s feet and cover with warm socks! (Pungent!!) And mummy and daddy’s tender loving care go a long way as well :)
I hope that helps and I wish your family all the best for the onslaught. If you have any tried and true home remedies I would love to hear them! There are some other herbal remedies like andrographis and ginseng which have some evidence to support their use, but their safety is largely unknown especially in children, and I usually hesitate to recommend herbs in children unless they have been studied extensively. Good luck and may the Force be with you this winter :)
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oddharmonic/2240492703/