Whether it’s a mild cold or a more serious case of the flu, when your little one isn’t feeling well, you both suffer. As cold and flu season peaks this month, here are a few tricks to fight off cold season this year.
The best medicine is prevention
Winter is “hands down” the most important time of year for consistent hand washing. Simple reminders for older kids usually do the trick. Teach younger kids good habits by encouraging them to wash for at least 20 seconds – about the time it takes to sing the “ABC” song.
A healthy diet fuels the immune system
You can help keep your little one’s immune system strong with a healthy, varied diet throughout winter months. The immune system is a complex arrangement of functions between cells, organs and tissue; if any part is weak, kids are more susceptible to infection.
Vitamins, minerals, probiotics and antioxidants keep the body strong, and staving off infection can become an uphill battle without these vital nutrients in play. While no single food will prevent illness, medical and nutritional experts agree a healthy diet generally leads to a healthy immune system.
That’s why winter meals should include protein-packed foods, like peas and beans, probiotic-filled yogurt and plenty of antioxidant-rich foods. Snacks should include fruits and veggies whenever possible; when going for packaged snacks make sure to read the labels to ensure they’re truly healthy and nutrient-rich, not just seemingly so.
Your best nutritional bets
A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can be difficult to gather during the winter months, so focus on seasonal root vegetables and dried fruits with vibrant colors, which are shown to have the highest levels of immune-boosting phytonutrients.
A healthy gut helps strengthen immunity, so get plenty of probiotics from yogurt, pickles, and other fermented foods. Vitamin D is important and in short supply during the winter months. You can complement your vitamin D intake with eggs, mushrooms and oily fish like salmon, herring and sardines.
Also look for foods with vitamin E which, according to the According American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, helps boost immune function; these include mango, almonds, sunflower oil and safflower oil among others. Red apples are high in immune-boosting antioxidants and studies show their soluble fiber has immune-strengthening properties, too. When possible, limit added sugar, which weakens the immune system and contributes to phlegm production.
They say you are what you eat, so make sure your family’s diet consists of healthy options!
The immune system, like every other part of the body, needs time to recover. Be sure to protect your child’s sleep and limit activity if you start to see symptoms of fatigue or illness. Remember, school-aged children need about ten hours of sleep and toddlers typically need at least twelve.
Stop illness at the first signs
If you start to see symptoms of cold and flu, take immediate steps to aid your child’s immune function, minimize the duration of illness and keep her comfortable. Encourage your child to take a hot shower before bed, or run a humidifier to help reduce congestion and cough, and get plenty of extra sleep. If she’s up for eating, continue to help her get plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink soup broth or warm water with a touch of honey and lemon to soothe a scratchy throat.
You don’t have to surrender to cold and flu season this year. With these simple solutions, you can keep yourself, and your family, healthy and happy throughout the winter.
Noha Waibsnaider is the founder and CEO of Peeled Snacks, a maker of organic fruit and vegetable snacks. Committed to organic, clean food, Peeled Snacks makes a variety of vegetable and fruit snacks available in Starbucks, Whole Foods, Hudson News, Amazon.com and grocery stores. Find out more at www.peeledsnacks.com, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
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