Staying Healthy During Flu Season

How to Stay Healthy During Flu SeasonTo be perfectly frank, I never worried much about flu season until I was pregnant for the first time. We were told by both my OB/Gyn and our pediatrician that households with pregnant women and children under age two were in a higher risk category for the flu. Hearing that, I started looking into how to keep my little family healthy through flu season. Here are some things that I’ve found helpful in staving off the flu. Could be dumb luck, but our track record so far is perfect–no flu for us (knock on wood).

Of course I did this one before, but hand washing is huge. It is the single most important thing in my opinion in avoiding the flu. You don’t need antibacterial soap, just regular old soap and water will do. You need to wash for 20 seconds to kill all of the germs (which is the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, times two). Frequent washing up, especially after you have been to a public place, is an easy way to avoid getting sick. This is a great habit to start early and often with your kids. I’m personally not a huge hand sanitizer fan, but it’s good to have around in a pinch (especially with kids).

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to carry your own pen to limit germ exposure, but what about your kids and publicly-pawed surfaces? Babies and toddlers put everything in their mouth, so avoiding germs altogether is going to be near impossible. This is the time of year, though, that you may want to avoid places like the play area at your pediatrician’s office or even large indoor playgrounds, which can be a godsend during inclement winter weather, but can also harbor a lot of germs.

You may have heard about babies in Scandinavian countries napping outdoors in the winter; for me an important way to stay healthy during the winter is to get some fresh air on a regular basis. I know it’s a pain to get babies and toddlers all bundled up, but indoor air quality in the winter is often poor due to houses being shut up tight for energy efficiency. Getting outside for some fresh air, exercise and vitamin D (your body gets most of its vitamin D from the sun; during the winter this can be difficult) can make a huge difference in your day, both physically and mentally, especially during the darkest days of winter.

Whenever I fly, my family and I always drink a product called Emergen-C before leaving for the airport. It’s a high dosage vitamin C powder you mix with water to make a fizzy drink. There are other products out there that have similar properties, and of course you can get your vitamin C from whole foods instead, but this is one that I like and I feel it helps beef up our immune systems before being exposed to tons of people’s germs in super dry, stale cabin air. If you have a very young child, you can check with your pediatrician about vitamin C and your youngster; it’s a water soluble vitamin but still could potentially cause discomfort if you administer too much. Probiotics are also a useful tool in keeping your family’s immune system strong this winter. You can find them in yogurt (look for live cultures labeled on the package) or kefir, fermented foods like kimchee and also as a supplement.

Meaghan Howard is mom to two little boys, who are still always putting everything into their mouths, even during flu season. 

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