So, what to do? How can we best avoid germs, and what can we do to speed recovery? Now, I'm not a doctor, but here's a few things I try to keep in mind to ward off colds & flues:
- Wash hands often & encourage children to do the same - I read somewhere that children touch their hands to their mouths an average of once every 3 minutes! That gives flu germs about 250 opportunities to enter their little systems in a 12-hour day! So, we keep hand sanitizer in the car for those times when a sink isn't handy ( I keep a mini-bottle in my purse too - especially convenient after I wipe a nose, or after we have been looking at menus in a restaurant).
- Maintain good eating/sleeping habits -A healthy body is better able to defend itself against flu bugs. To me, this means making sure everyone is getting the sleep they need, and are eating enough fruits & veg (keeping a bowl on the kitchen island works wonders, as does encouraging kids to eat the healthiest thing on their plates first). In winter months, I usually take a multi-vitamin and give one to the kids as well, as a back-up to make sure all bases are covered and that we are getting ALL our vitamins (i.e.: most of us in the Northern Hemisphere don't get enough vitamin D!). I also find that if I keep a 16-oz glass on the counter, I am more likely to fill it up and take a few sips every time I pass by - it's important to stay hydrated!
- Eat probiotics - If you ever watch Dr. Oz, you know that the digestive system plays a hugs role in your overall health and immunity and that probiotics help fight the bad bugs while encouraging good ones. I prefer getting them through yogurt (i.e.: Activia) but you can also take supplements.
- Get enough sleep - I try to give the children the down time they need to recover when they are sick. Sending them to school sick is only going to prolong their illness, impair their ability to absorb information, and spread germs to other children. I believe a day or two of rest will cut down significantly on the severity and length of the illness overall. And, we all have a tendency to push ourselves when under the weather, but I believe the same applies for adults - sleep in, work from home if you can.
- Get fluids - Don't become dehydrated! Drink plenty of water! When the kids can't keep water down, I will give them juice pops to sip (make your own from watered down apple juice) and if all else fails, have even been known to soak a facecloth and let them suck on it (is that bad?). For myself, I am not into the herbal teas, but I do keep ginger tea around for when I am sick or nauseous - it does work: it stays down even when water doesn't want to.
- Steam - I find a cup of hot tea, or a nice steamy shower helps to clear my sinuses and alleviate sinus-related headaches. Not when you have a high fever though ;-)
- Watch what you eat - Remember the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast)? It works! If vomiting is an issue, we stick to these until we can keep them down, then move on to other foods. My doctor also recommends not having dairy products for 24-48 hrs after the last time something comes up.
- Cough into your elbow - I figure that if you cover your mouth with your hands, you are just going to infect everything you touch since you won't always be next to a washroom, sink or a bottle of sanitizer. So I've tried to teach the children to cough into their elbow instead.
According to the October 2010 issue of Today's Parent, H1N1 is still on the go this year. On the plus side, they also say that if you had the vaccine last year, you ARE LIKELY protected as the virus hasn't changed. If you didn't have the shot, this year's regular flu shot DOES contain protection from the virus (because it is still making the rounds). I had the shot last year, but am undecided about this year. I prefer to stay away from drugs and medicine unless necessary, but have been known to get the flu shot from time to time: basically, if I m feeling pretty healthy, I'll skip it that year, but if I think my system might be a bit under the weather, I will get it for an extra boost. So, we'll see.
What are your tips, tricks & rules for keeping illness at bay?