How we're *trying* to stay healthy during cold & flu season.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Four years ago, I wrote this post on "how we're staying healthy during cold & flu season." Looking back on it now, it's obviously written pre-kids because, with little kids in the house, staying perpetually healthy often feels impossible. Liam is in some form of childcare with other toddlers at least 3 times a week and it's almost inevitable that he brings home a cold or virus every couple months and generously shares it with us. When we moved to Raleigh last year, it felt like one of us was sick every few weeks. So this year, we're taking action! Or at least trying. (I write this as Liam and I are, ironically, on the tail end of a cold.)

I've updated and expanded the info in my original post to include what we're doing with Liam, as well as what I hope to do in the future. 
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1. Wash your hands with soap and water. In the antibacterial hand gel craze, this may not be so obvious. While hand sanitizer works well if you have no access to soap and water, and while it does kill most microbes, it doesn't physically destroy them and wash them away from the skin's surface like good old-fashioned soap and water does. Most hand sanitizers are composed of mostly alcohol (60-95%) which does destroy bacteria, but it also strips away the outermost layer of skin and dries out your hands (which has to do with point #2). Also, the CDC notes that the most common infections are typically viral (not bacterial) and therefore are not killed by the active ingredients in hand gel. Bottom line? Use hand sanitizer in a pinch, but not as a replacement for good ole soap and water. If I've just picked up Liam from childcare and he wants a snack in the car where we have no access to soap and water, I put antibacterial on his hands and hope for the best. Otherwise, I always try to find a sink. Also, making your own natural hand sanitizer with essential oils looks intriguing, though I haven't tried it myself.

2. Moisturize your hands. Your skin is your number one protection against disease. So we have to be careful when we have wounds or openings to the skin that allow bacteria or viruses direct access to our bodies. In the winter, when your hands get really dry and sometimes crack, those little cracks are a weak spot for your immune system because they allow microbes in. No wonder it's so much easier to get sick in the dry winter, right? So keeping them moisturized protects them (and you) from disease.
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3. Elderberry syrup. It's our secret weapon. I learned about it several years ago on Passionate Homemaking and Shawn and I have used it with a lot of success. This Fall and Winter, we'll be taking one to two teaspoons of it every morning as an immunity booster. Also, if you're at the beginning of a cold or infection, you can take 1 teaspoon every 2-3 hours and you'll get over it much quicker. It's powerful stuff! We had been buying bottles of it from Whole Foods, but just recently started making our own (which is much cheaper) with this tutorial from Mountain Rose Herbs, which is where I buy our elder berries. You can also purchase elderberries on Amazon. It's all natural, works amazingly well to fight cold and flu, and actually tastes really good. I think kids would really love it! Try it out! I just made this year's batch of elderberry syrup and made sure to use raw, local honey this time around - which has added health benefits for seasonal allergy sufferers. And from the research I did, raw honey has no more risks than processed honey for children or pregnant women. I also put 1 teaspoon of elderberry syrup into Liam's sippy cup in the morning and he doesn't mind the taste at all. When we were both recently sick, we took a teaspoon every few hours and got over our colds very quickly (in less than 3 days). 

4. Flu shots. I know this is such a controversial topic, but because I'm pregnant and because of my background as a registered nurse (and the complications I often saw of people having the flu), we're all getting flu shots this year. I've personally never gotten the flu after getting a flu shot, and because the flu can be pretty dangerous in pregnancy, it's what my midwife strongly recommends. We do always opt for the preservative-free shot which can usually be found at Walgreens (just call ahead to check). This means that it does not contain mercury as some flu shots do. It is refrigerated, and I think it stings a little more, but it feels well worth it to me.

What are some tips you have on staying healthy during the cold/flu season?

P.S. I'm tempted to jump onto the essential oils bandwagon. I've read so many positive things about them, just haven't made the leap. Worth it? Any specific brands you'd recommend? 

14 comments:

  1. Whitney, I wondered if you would mention essential oils! I just signed up for Young Living Essential Oils. Mostly because the starter kit is the best and most economical way to try all of them out, but I have totally fallen in love!! We have Thieves which is one of the biggest germ fighting oils on the planet!! There is literally an oil for everything!!! Let me know if you have questions, I really love mine. If you don't still have my email, it is my first name . last name @ g m a i l.com I also haven't had a chance to congratulate you on the new baby! So excited you are having a dainty little girl!! :)

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    1. So good to know. I've heard good things about Young Living and keep seeing it all over Instagram. :) Thanks, Whitleigh!

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  2. I love all these....yes, yes, and yes to washing hands with soap and water! We love elderberry, maybe I'll have to try making our own. I also believe that drinking lots of water and a healthy diet, play a big part in staying healthy. We use essential oils. I have an incredibly long list of health problems that I've struggled with over the years and starting on essential oils has been one of the best things for me personally. Our children haven't been sick since sometime last year. I actually can't remember the last time the were sick. Anyway, I think they're worth a try. We've used a ton of different brands, but doTERRA is our favorite. You should talk to Kirra if you're interested. I've given her samples before. She could give you some info or I can give you more if your interested. There's a lot to sort through when started to look into them. (and they have an amazing lotion you would love!)

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    1. "Our children haven't been sick since sometime last year." My goodness... that sounds amazing. Enough reason right there to consider it! I remember Kirra talking a little about it, but will have to pick her brain again soon. And good to know about doTERRA, too. Thank you!

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  3. I second Jessica's suggestion. We love to diffuse On Guard to ward off germs in the atmosphere, plus I make my own hand sanitizer - no chemicals. Using essential oils actually becomes cheaper on family health care as you spend less $ on things that are easily taken care of at home, without the Dr. visit co-pay. You can also make your own cleaning products with essential oils - less $ and more importantly, no harsh chemicals.

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    1. Amen and amen. Even as a nurse who believes (somewhat) in medicine, I'd rather avoid the doctor's office if I can. Especially for the co-pay. And cleaning products too? Somehow I didn't even realize that. I'm excited! Thanks Inez.

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  4. Thanks for linking to our hand sanitizer recipe! I hope you like it! Eric's family loves it. Personally I find it a little sticky so I'm going to try and figure out how to modify it a bit. :)

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  5. Great post! :) Next to hand washing, my number one thing is very little sugar. I am a big fan of zinc for prevention and if taken right at the onset it might be helpful. I use a vitamin c powder made only from acerola berries in our smoothies as well. A good multi vitamin is helpful and I love the ones made by Seeking Health.

    If you do find yourself under the weather, Wild Cherry Bark Syrup by Honey Gardens (Whole Foods) has been helpful for respiratory colds / coughs. In addition to the wild cherry bark it has raw honey and propolis. I have had sinus infections in the spring the last two years and when I got really tired of it I resorted to garlic and / ginger shots. I grate or chop up garlic or ginger (I actually think ginger is the bigger gun) and put it in a glass of water. I give it a good swirl and then swallow it down.

    I have spent a long time considering essential oils but haven't taken the plunge yet either. I really like a series of blog post by Whole New Mom. She did some really great, unbiased research that I found interesting.

    http://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/natural-remedies/announcing-the-best-essential-oils-company-and-a-great-sale/

    Lastly, I really like the Sani-Hands hand wipes (alcohol based) vs. hand gel. Maybe the action of wiping their hands just makes me feel better but I think it might help.

    With all this said, I hold my plans loosely and joy in knowing that God's plans prevail.

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    1. Jess, This is all so helpful. I have so much to learn! And I'm with you on the hand wipes... I actually just picked some up today to keep in our car and in the diaper bag. Oh and I'm off to read that article. Thank you!!

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  6. Its being great to know about this basic and important tips which are usually get ignore by us but thanks you share about it and it work as a reminder for me. I would also like to add few tips like during this cold season try eating food that contain heat like chicken or eggs which will help you stay warm during winter. You can also have a drink made up from few indian spices which is really good fro over all health. You can find this drink recipe on google.

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  7. These are all great tips! We don't do the flu shot, but everything else yes. I have found for us personally that diet plays a major role in prevention, as well as using natural cleaning methods. Overall health is key! We drink lots of kombucha and eat mostly organic and whole foods. This is a sacrifice financially, yes, but 100% worth it in my opinion. You get out what you put in. My kids stay remarkably healthy, despite the bugs and colds that circulate around. If their immune systems aren't compromised in the first place, it makes a big difference. I haven't made the essential oil plunge, but a friend recently gave me a bunch of samples so I'm curious to try them!

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  8. HI Whitney, we just started using Ameo essential oils. We are new to essential oils but we really feel like there is nothing like these in regards to purity. We have become distributors and so I included the link to our website if you want to check them out. We are nothing but pleased!

    www.cornerstone.myameo.com

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  9. My favorites for this time of the year: 100mg of Vit C, vit D, zinc+copper, Vit B12, sambucus, oregano oil in pill and olive leaf extract. I don't take them everyday but they are powerful immune system boosters! My kids take everyday Sambucus, vit C, a multi vit for focus, and calcium and vit D.

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