A couple things I don’t miss about being a mom are watching my kids suffer from a cold, virus, or flu and the frequency of being sick myself that comes with being a parent of young kids. Because of young children’s developing immune systems, they share these illnesses more readily than they share their toys. So I’d like to provide you this refresher on winter health tips for your family.
The medical field has long known kids and adults are more prone to catching colds and the flu during the cold winter months. Previously, scientists have primarily attributed this increased risk a result of people living and breathing together in enclosed environments. But now, according to a 2015 PBS report, “Scientists Finally Prove Why Cold Weather Makes You Sick,” Yale scientists have the evidence that cold temperatures do indeed make our immune systems sluggish and prevent our bodies from fighting off infection.
While germs are the actual cause of colds and the flu, it’s now known that cold temperatures prevent our bodies from being able to stave off infection. So with these two factors in mind, follow the winter health tips for your family below to help keep your family healthy the through the upcoming months.
Winter Health Tips for Your Family
Keep your home warm
As just revealed, maintaining warmth is essential to ward off winter-related illnesses. So keep your home temperature comfortably warm by setting your thermostat somewhere between 68 and 75°F. Optimum temperatures are 70 to 72 °F for daytime in your living areas and then turning the thermostat down just a couple degrees cooler at night in your bedrooms. What’s comfortable can vary from person-to-person though. So if you or your kids feel cold at 72 °F, turn it up a notch or two. The idea is that you remain comfortable.
Dress in layers
Whether you’re hanging around at home or heading out and about, layer yours and your kids clothing. Wear a t-shirt or cami, a long sleeve shirt or blouse, and a sweater over the top. This way you can keep your thermostat set at a moderate temperature and peel off layers to maintain the perfect comfort level. Layers will also ensure you maintain your comfort if you go somewhere.
Also, when you do leave the house, wear warm boots, gloves, and a hat even if you’ll be outside only briefly. Parents are usually really good at making sure their kids have on all the right winter gear. But it’s important for adults as well. We lose most of our body heat through our extremities, so it’s vital to keep those areas warm.
Maintaining a healthy diet is important year round. But during the cool winter months, certain foods are particularly beneficial to our immune systems.
Surprisingly, the much-criticized starchy potato is an excellent source of nutrition. It’s high in vitamins B6 and C, both of which boost our immunity.
Collards, kale, and chard among other dark leafy greens are high in vitamins A, C, and K.
Winter squash, from pumpkin to butternut, spaghetti, and acorn, is high in beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene to vitamin A, another vital source to boost our immune systems.
There are also several fruits particularly beneficial to protecting us from winter-related ailments. Citrus fruits are a rich source of vitamin C. But kiwi packs even more of a ‘C’ punch than an orange. Other fruits that’ll help keep your immune system strong include pomegranates, blueberries, cherries, and even bananas.
Drink plenty of water
Dehydration causes a host of health complications. Despite this, most kids and adults don’t drink nearly enough water and are therefore in a state of chronic dehydration say health experts. In fact, half of all children are dehydrated according to the report “Prevalence of Inadequate Hydration Among US Children and Disparities by Gender and Race/Ethnicity: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2012.”
So just how much water should a person drink each day? For many years we’ve repeatedly been told to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. But how logical is it that a 100-pound inactive woman would require the same intake as an active 220-pound man? It isn’t logical at all as it turns out.
The good news is, there’s a simple formula for how much water a person should consume. Take your weight and multiply it by 66% (weight x .66 = ounces of water). The result is how many ounces of water you or your child needs to drink each day. If you’re active, add 12 ounces per 30 minutes of exercise.
Wash your hands
We all know washing our hands is crucial to prevent the spread of germs to others. But regular hand washing also reduces the risk of transfer of bacteria to yourself.
How is that? When someone with a cold or flu touches a doorknob, handrail, or any other object, they transfer their germs to those objects where the bacteria survive for several hours. Now let’s say you come along and touch the germ-ridden object. The bacteria has now transferred to your hands. Next thing you know, you scratch your nose or grab a cookie to eat, and voilà, you’ve just been infected.
So during the winter months make a special effort to make sure you and your kids wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water. Be sure to rub between your fingers and underneath your fingernails then rinse your hands well and dry them thoroughly. When in public restrooms, use a paper towel to turn off the water and to open the restroom door after you’ve washed your hands.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is crucial to a healthy heart, lungs, and bones. But exercise does even more than that for our health. In 2010, a study was cited in “Exercise and Respiratory Tract Viral Infections.” It found a moderately active lifestyle may improve our immune systems as well. Interestingly, it also found prolonged, intense exercise suppresses the immune system.
So the key to improved health is to exercise regularly but in moderation. Unless you’re trying out for the Olympics, a 20-mile run isn’t likely to serve you well. Instead, opt for a brisk walk for 30 – 60 minutes each day. If you want to do something more vigorous, do a 20-30 minute run or aerobic workout 3 to 4 times a week with some weight lifting in between for optimum health. Also, look for some activities your kids can do regularly throughout the winter whether it’s playing or swimming at a recreation center or some outdoor winter recreation.
Avoid public places during outbreaks
When you hear of an outbreak of the flu or a virus in your area, it’s a good time to stay home. Avoid public places as much as possible. This will serve double-duty by keeping you out of the cold. Also, if your child is in daycare, make sure the daycare has policy that kids with a virus or flu must stay home until they’re no longer contagious.
Take an antiviral medication
If you’re exposed to the flu, be proactive and nip it in the bud with a prescription for Relenza or Tamiflu. The only catch, there’s a short window of opportunity for these medications to be effective. Treatment medications must begin within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms for the treatments to be effective. So as soon as you feel signs of the flu coming on, call your doctor. If your doctor can’t get you in right away, opt for an urgent care so you can begin the treatment immediately.
Get a massage
According to a 2010 study for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Swedish massage increases lymphocytes, which improve the effectiveness of our immune systems. This means you now have a better excuse to treat yourself to that massage you’ve been reluctant to splurge on – and as a parent, you surely deserve a little pampering. If getting regular massages isn’t in your budget, opt for trading massages with your partner to help fight off illness.
Get your z’s
Studies have found that when we sleep our bodies release cytokines, which help to promote sleep. But certain cytokines also ward off infection. When we don’t get enough sleep, we’re deprived of the protective cytokines, thus leaving us more susceptible to infection.
Sleep requirements vary from person to person, but children should get at least ten hours of sleep each night. Teenagers require nine to ten hours and adults seven to eight hours per night.
by Kimberly Blaker
Post date: December 6, 2017
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