Cooler temps and shorter days mean it's time to pay extra attention to your family's health. This family winter health guide will help you keep colds and flu at bay.
Wash your hands for 30 seconds—and often—to keep viruses and bacteria at bay. Slip alcohol-free antibacterial hand gel into kids’ lunchboxes, and remind them to wash before they eat and after they go to the bathroom.
Layer up. Don’t just pay attention to the temperature, check the wind chill factor, too. In general, kids can play outside comfortably if the temperature with the wind chill is above 30 degrees, so long as they’re properly layered. Look for layering fabrics that wick away moisture as sweating can lead to a chill without proper insulation. When the body is cold, the immune system is suppressed, leaving you susceptible to illness.
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Drink plenty of water. This is one of the best ways to push viruses and bacteria out of the body. Stay away from sugar-laden juices and caffeinated drinks that can leave you feeling dehydrated as that may compromise the body’s ability to fight illness. During the cold winter months, water also helps to regulate body temperature and transport nutrients throughout the body. Most school-age kids need about 5 to 7 cups each day; adults should strive for 8 to 10.
Ask your doc about the flu shot. Flu season is in full swing through May, and the rates of infection are highest among children, so it’s especially important that kids are vaccinated. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that ll children be vaccinated against influenza each year. The newer nasal spray vaccine cannot be given to children under two, those with asthma or those who have experienced any wheezing in the previous year, nor is it recommended for kids on long-term aspirin treatment. For more from the AAP on kids and influenza, click HERE.
Keep moving. Exercise does wonders for the mind and body, especially during the cold winter months. Exercise boosts the immune system, thereby putting it in a better position to fight infection. Exercise will also help you feel more relaxed and less stressed by releasing endorphins that help you feel good. Research shows that the less stress we put on our bodies, the better the odds that it will stay healthy. Even a family walk before dinner or 30 minutes spent jamming to a dance-themed Wii or XBox game will do the trick. The family bonding time is a bonus.
Go towards the light. The winter blues can easily transform into Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is essentially like having bouts of mood swings on a regular basis. The best remedy is the vitamin D found in natural sunlight, so make sure the family gets about 10 to 15 minutes of exposure each day.