Staying Well Through the Sick Season

Sick season has officially begun.  It seems like everywhere I turn, I hear about someone being sick with something that sounds dreadful.  Perhaps it’s that the world has gotten so small, what with the internet and all, but it seems like I’m surrounded.  It’s enough to give me a minor anxiety attack.  We generally stay pretty well in our household, but there is usually one dramatic episode at some point during the winter — usually right around the holidays.  Bah humbug.

This year, of course all the hype is about the swine flu.  I’m extremely conflicted on the swine flu vaccine, and the regular one, for that matter.  Some sites lead you to believe vaccines are virtually harmless, and conversely, that dying from the flu is a huge risk — a risk far greater than any risks the vaccine may pose.  Other sites suggest that the statistics about flu deaths are overblown, the swine flu is generally mild, and the vaccine is ineffective at best and harmful at its worst.  I’ve also read that vaccines lower your immune system.

Who’s a mom to trust??

I have never had a flu vaccine.  I’ve also never had the flu.  KNOCK ON WOOD.  My husband often gets the vaccine at work since it’s convenient and free.  My son has had the vaccine every year for several years due to his asthma.  My older daughter had an egg allergy in her first few years of life and has never had the vaccine.  My younger daughter has never had the vaccine simply because I never bothered to go out of my way to get it for her.  Her well checkups are always in the spring when flu season is almost over, so the topic has never come up with her doctor.

I’ve never been one to get hyped over the flu.  It always goes around, EVERY year they say it’s going to be the worst year for the flu EVER, we never seem to get it, which is not to say that we don’t get sick, but whenever we’ve been tested, it’s always come back as a virus.  I never did any research on the flu vaccine; I just went with my instincts.

This year there is no way around it.  Everyone’s talking about it, and as I research our food choices, I invariably come across articles about H1N1 and flu vaccines.

After reading everything I can get my hands on and talking to people in the medical profession, other moms, and polling my readers where I avidly read every single comment, I’ve decided to do what I do every other year — let my instincts make the decision for me.  There is so much conflicting information from reputable sources that I think I’ll just do what’s been working for the past few years.  There is, however, one thing I’ll be doing differently.  This year I am actively trying to prevent my family from getting sick.

Along with all of my food research, I have come across many suggestions for natural ways to boost the immune system, and I am implementing many.  Here’s what we’re doing.

First and foremost, I have purchased good quality mulit-vitamins and additional vitamin D and Omega-3 supplements for all of us.  I also take probiotics, mostly to help with my tummy troubles, but a healthy tummy supposedly contributes towards a healthy immune system.  I’ve been planning to buy vitamin C as well, but as you know, supplements can get expensive.

We have been limiting sugar and processed foods because sugar depletes the immune system.

We’re getting plenty of rest.  I’m trying to be better about getting the kids to bed on time, and also myself.

I cook with a ton of garlic — a natural antibiotic, or so I’ve heard.

I have been making chicken broth weekly, and trying to cook with it as much as possible.  My kids love chicken noodle soup, so I try to keep that around for lunches or quick dinners.  The nutrients from correctly prepared bone broths boost the immune system.

We eat lots of fruits and veggies.

And I have the kids wash their hands immediately after school to hopefully cut down on the germs being brought home.  I’ve also been told by all 3 of my children’s teachers that they are being very proactive about having the kids wash their hands before snacks and meals, for which I am thankful.

What about you?  How are you keeping your family healthy through the winter months?  I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions that I missed.

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28 Responses

  1. I know you eat yogurt so you aren’t missing this one, but apparently yogurt has a lot of immunity boosting stuff (such a technical word, I know) in it too. Good to know, right?

    And, have you shared your method/recipe for making broth? Did I miss it? If so will you link me to it and if not would you consider doing a post on it? I tried making my own broth last week, using Ina’s recipe. Just curious if that is considered a “correctly prepared bone broth” or not.

  2. My husband takes some supplements, and I am going to start taking some. We do no get the flu shots and usually stay pretty healthy. We take Echinacea but only when we feel like somethng might be coming on so we don’t build up resistance to it. I also want you to know I have stopped using Splenda in my coffee and now use natural local honey. I was concerned at first about the calories as I am trying to lose weight, but decided to go the healthier way. We’ll see how it goes! Also curious-do you use flax seed?

  3. sleep..speaking of which I should hit the hay. Ohh, green tea. I will NEVER get the vaccine..i don’t believe in it.

  4. Christine, that’s GREAT!!! Local raw honey is SO good for you too.

    I do use flax. I put it in my granola and sometimes I sneak it into my homemade bread too. *evil grin*

  5. Jo-Lynne,
    I, too, am struggling with this. Hand washing is key, as is rest and good nutrition. I got the kids flu shots this year because I don’t want to be the ones who give grandma and grandpop the flu. Still, I don’t know what to do about H1N1. What do “they” mean when “they” say H1N1 is mild? My pediatrician said that the folks she saw with swine flu were definitely feeling awful.

    A magic crystal ball sure would come in handy right now…

  6. Yeah, I dunno. My guess is it varies. I don’t want to be cavalier about it. I know I could get struck down with a horrid case of the flu. In a way, b/c I never get it, I feel like I’m due. KWIM? But on the other hand, I think we are getting too vaccine-happy in our country. Something about it just doesn’t set right with me.

  7. Plenty of fresh air and exercise everyday!!!! LOTS and LOTS of fruits and veggies (fresh and raw!!!!) Raw garlic worked better then cooked one (fennel or Anise seed chew up after garlic help for then *ahem* smell)

    Sleep lots of it! Stay from sick peoples. Drink plenty of water. and have fun, laughing is the best medicine and keep the blood flow going and boost immune system!

  8. This year I decided to try some old school remedies.
    This week I have been putting a little cod liver oil in their
    juice. Bolthouse Farms has a really good juice called
    C-Boost that has high dose of Vitamin C, Zinc, & Echinacea.
    I have also started giving them a Vitamin D supplement. They
    have had a few sniffles and coughs but not as bad as it
    usually is.

  9. My daughter was sick last winter, so often, she technically missed enough school to fail her for the year. (very glad they worked with us on that) She’s had more doctor appointments this year from January on than she’s ever had and they have resulted in us learning she has asthma. That’s why I scheduled her to get the H1N1 shot tomorrow afternoon as I figured with her asthma and not wanting a repeat of last winter, this was a good bet.

    She either has the flu right now or strep throat (going to the doctor this afternoon) so the shot is going to have to wait now. Hoping her diet, asthma meds and, as you suggested, better handwashing/less sharing of others personal items will help this year. I switched us to whole grains, less sugar, less pre/processed foods and more veg a couple of years ago and have seen an improvement in her grades and frustration levels, but am starting to think there’s a lot more I could do to help with her health. I’ve been reading your posts avidly and am thinking about the lard/crisco thing now. Still unsure if I want to make *that* switch, but it’s just one of the things I’m considering.

    Anyway, my ramble was in part to thank you for all the informative and thought provoking posts you’ve been churning out. 🙂

  10. Do you mind my asking what brand vitamins you use, as well as Omega 3 supplements? I’ve always had a hard time finding a “good quality” brand. With regard to the Omega 3s, it’s been difficult finding a supplement that provides a decent dose size and that the kids would take (as my kids do not swallow pills).

    Also, how much additional vitamin D are you giving the kids? I tried to find a recommended dosage for children a while back, but had no luck. Being that it’s fat soluble, it makes me nervous about giving the kids too much.

  11. We are major garlic/oj/protien eatters in our house. My kids love all of it, so we use it as much as possible, even combining all three for chicken dishes.

    We are also making sure to get enough sleep (a huge issue right now with Boo), and taking time each night to relax and calm. My kids are always more prone to being sick when we are on the go non-stop. By making sure we have some down-time each night it helps a ton with that.

  12. My auntie sent me an email talking about how to prevent the flu. Gargle with warm salt water twice a day. Since flu germs enter through the nose, mouth, and throat, gargling helps clean out the throat. Also, blow your nose hard once a day, then swab the inside of your nose with a q-tip dipped in warm salt water. This has a similar effect as using listerine in the mouth. It’s worth a try!

  13. I am also actively trying to prevent my family from getting sick. My kids already got their flu shot and this year I made a small kit for my kids to carry in their backpacks. The kit contains Sani wipes, band aids, antiseptic swabs, hand lotion, lip balm, tissues and emergency contact information. My children have been very good about using the Sani wipes. Each classroom has a bathroom so they are able to wash their hands when needed. There is also hand sanitizer at the door of each classroom. Along with the basic precautions, my entire family takes daily supplements including probiotics.

    Unfortunately, this has not prevented my children from getting very sick and missing school already. My son is home again with a fever today.

    Our district has very strict rules about not sending sick kids to school but this has not prevented H1N1 from spreading throughout my town. Our pediatrician just sent a newsletter stating a supply of the H1N1 vaccine has arrived. My husband and I talked it over and decided against it.

    All we can do is practice good hygiene, each a healthy diet, exercise and hope for the best.

  14. I think I sent you all those links on the vaccines but in that email she also specifically mentioned elderberry as being a natural immunity booster and also very similar to working like tamiflu (if you did in fact get it). I like the salt-water idea a few comments up — I’d never thought of it as a prevention, only as a treatment. Might be something to that…

    And I need to cut back my kids’ sugar intake; it’s gotten a little crazy since my energy level these days is a bit… uh, well, pregnant. LOL.

  15. The flu shot is preserved with MSG–monosodium glutamate. It’s a big no-no for me since that’s THE one food preservative I’m highly allergic too–we are talking about anaphylactic shock type of allergy.

    This year, I’m trying to convince our family to wash their hands frequently, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, use lots of garlic and onion, keep crystallized ginger, and get lots of rest. We have a bonus in the form of green chile to help us keep our upper respiratory tract and intestines healthy. 😀

  16. Eating raw garlic. It’s an antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. Everyone in my home got the flu – I was eating raw garlic and no sugar for weeks {sugar is SO bad for us} and I didn’t catch the flu. I’m getting my kids to eat raw garlic. Crushing it up and hiding it in their food. Hoping it helps for them also.


  17. I have thought about spraying the kids down with Lysol when they walk into the door. But apparently they don’t like that.

    So, we are moving on to face masks and gloves. Although a bubble is looking good right about now.

  18. I always say if you ever get the real deal flu, you’ll line up for the vaccine. I had it when I was 27 and it was horrendous. I’ve had gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hyeprtension,cardiomyopathy and pneumonia and a myraid of other transient bugs. Without a doubt, the flu left me the sickest: in bed x 1.5 weeks, down 10 lbs. and I will always believe it contributed somewhat to the cardiomyopathy I developed a few years later.

    See one critically ill child and a distraught mom who says she never thought the flu was that big of a deal and you’ll change your mind. You won’t want to be that mom…or at least the mom who has regrets.

    All of the other stuff (sans homeopathic, untested medicines that I refuse to put in my body) is good, sound advice and things we definitely do at our house.

  19. Love your tips! We’re doing more handwashing around here as well as using the antibacterial wet wipes, though I generally don’t use the antibacterial products. We’re also taking multi-vitamins and Vitamin C. I’m trying (emphasis on trying) to cut back on sugar and refined carbs and what not. Also, sleep is a priority around here as well.

    Do you make your chicken broth the way Nourishing Traditions recommends?

  20. This is a difficult one for me too as a new mom to an 8 month old.
    I personally feel he is still too young for a flu vaccine or swine flu vaccine.
    My son’s ND mentioned the “natural methods of prevention” just as you listed. vitamin D3 (1,000IUD for infants 2,000IUD for adults), probiotics, lots of Vitamin C.
    Thanks for posting and sharing with everyone!

  21. We wash our hands like crazy and I carry antibacterial wipes with me everywhere. They are crazy at Aubryn’s school about cleanliness and hand washing. At not-yet-2, she is probably the best handwasher of us all! I opted to get the flu vaccine for all of us this year. Last year, Aubryn got every single ailment which came down the pike and even ended up having to get tubes in her ears. I have always gotten one week-long sickness (fever, etc.) every winter so I started getting the flu vaccine a few years ago.

    I am really confused about the H1N1 vaccine though. My pediatrician won’t have it in until at least Halloween so I am waiting until then to fully decide. My doctor told me in no uncertain terms to get it because I am in a high risk category. Again, my doctor does not have it available yet either. Do you think that if I just bury my head in the sand it will all go away?

  22. One thing that my hubby swears by when he starts to feel sick is Oil of Oregano. He fills a capsule up with it and starts taking them as soon as he feels any hint of sickness. It is highly concentrated so you have to be careful how much you take. I give my kids the teeniest drop when they start to feel under the weather. It seems to do the trick. It gives me indigestion, though so I don’t take it.

    We have gotten the flu shot in the past but it really didn’t seem to make a difference except that the flu did not seem to last as long. I’m still undecided on the flu shot – I’m not feeling a lot of peace about getting them this year.

    We eat a ton of fruits and veggies but one thing that my kids eat A LOT of is apples. About 2-3 small ones a day (washed, unpeeled). I really believe they do not get sick as often because of this. They also do not crave sugary snacks as much. “An apple a day…”

    I love that you talk about rest – I think this is one of the most crucial things to staying healthy. I am the worst about this for myself, though!

  23. This may be reactive rather than proactive, but as soon as I feel something coming on, I rush out and buy oranges. I’m a sucker for fresh-squeezed orange juice, and no matter what kinds of “fresh-squeezed” I buy at the store, it NEVER tastes as good as when I make it at home. But anyhoo…that’s my immune system booster. Fresh squeezed orange juice. I’ve put many miles on my citrus juicer!

  24. No flu shots here either. We are generally a very healthy bunch. My 10 yo has never missed school due to illness.
    Always have been big on organic yogurt with plenty of live cultures, and we are bumping up the fruits, veggies and vitamins. I read recently that vitamin D deficiency seems to be a common thing in those getting hit hardest with H1N1.(other interesting info on the vitamindcouncil site). The children’s recommended dose of Vit. D is now 400IU. I found Gummi Vites to have 400IU and are free of artificial colors & such that others have.
    I feel it is important to bump up our immune systems however we can. We are incorporating more food items or supplements that may be helpful.

  25. Okay, I started to type a comment here and, if I had continued, it would have been the longest comment in blogger history.

    So I decided my own post on this issue was the way to go. I’ll post it after a few more reviews and link back to you; probably sometime this afternoon. 🙂

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