The fall and winter months are my favorite time of year. Cooler weather, pumpkin patches, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes (Ok, you caught me… I’m a sucker for all things pumpkin!), Halloween costumes, family get-togethers, holiday shopping, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. What’s not to love? Well, my least favorite part of this festive season is that it also happens to be cold and flu season. While the timing of influenza season is unpredictable, seasonal flu activity usually picks up in October and November, peaks around February, and can last well into the spring months. But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, last year’s flu season was the longest-lasting influenza season in the past decade and there are already signs that the 2019-2020 flu season might be particularly difficult. As a mom to a young toddler, I believe that the best way to approach this season is by being prepared.
Understanding the Flu
The flu can be far worse than the common cold. The highly contagious illness can come on quickly and produce sore throat, coughing, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, fatigue, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. While the flu can affect anyone of any age, the flu is a significant cause of hospitalization for young children. Sometimes, a bad case of the flu can lead to complications, ranging from mild ear and sinus infections to potentially fatal pneumonia. It’s important to phone the doctor as soon as flu-like symptoms arise.
Taking Precautions Against Cold & Flu Viruses
Even in the peak of cold and flu season, there are precautions you can take to keep illness at bay, including:
Healthy Diet & Regular Exercise
Eating right is important every time of year, but especially during cold and flu season. The vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables can help strengthen your immune system and protect your body against illness. It’s also important to spend plenty of time outdoors and make sure everyone in the family gets enough exercise. Studies prove that exercise boosts the production of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial response that protects the body from invaders. If you have a young family, getting enough exercise may seem like an impossible feat. But it doesn’t have to be! A part of my family’s routine is an early evening walk every day. Before dinner, we walk around the neighborhood for about 30 minutes and get fresh air. It’s an easy routine and it helps us stay active as a family.
Get Enough Sleep
As a mom to an almost two-year-old, I know the difficulty of going to bed on time on a regular basis. According to experts, getting 8-10 hours of sleep each night is important for keeping your system in tip-top germ-fighting shape.
Good Hand Washing
Washing your hands with warm water and soap can help prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses. Wash your hands for 20 seconds – or for the time that it takes to sing “Jingle Bells” twice – and help young children do the same. I try to stay in the habit of washing my toddler’s hands when we come inside, after a playdate, and before eating. If soap and water aren’t available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses that cause colds and the flu can live on your hands and regular hand washing can help protect you from getting sick. It’s also important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Germs that might otherwise languish on your hands can easily infiltrate your system when you rub your face. Try to keep your hands away from your face as much as you reasonably can. Teach your kids the importance of keeping their hands away from their faces.
Disinfecting Around the Home & On the Go
When someone is infected with a cold or the flu, the virus can survive on contaminated surfaces for up to 48 hours! If your family has experienced a cold or the flu this season, it’s important to clean and disinfect your home to prevent the spread of the virus. When it comes to disinfectants, Vital Oxide is the perfect formula for eradicating germs – it kills 99.999% of germs and bacteria while being fragrance-free, gentle, and safe to use around children and pets. While disinfecting your entire house can be overwhelming, experts recommend focusing on frequently touched items or surfaces, including mobile devices, the fridge, countertops, doorknobs, faucets, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, computer keyboards, TV remotes, game controllers, changing pads/tables, children’s toys, and playrooms. It’s also a good idea to disinfect the interior of your car. To disinfect with Vital Oxide, simply spray, or wipe directly from the bottle, and let air dry. It’s that easy! When you’re on the go, be sure to bring a travel-sized bottle of Vital Oxide so you can easily disinfect items like restaurant tables, highchairs, and public changing tables. Experts agree that disinfecting is very important for the prevention of any kind of viral or bacterial infection.
Avoid Contact with Those Who Are Sick
It's an unfortunate fact that a person can spread flu germs a full day before exhibiting symptoms, and then up to five days after that. Be sure to steer clear of those with flu-like symptoms – they'll understand. The same goes for you. If you're sick, avoid close contact with others. Tell your children about the importance of keeping space from someone who's sick, and about healthy sharing habits.
Staying Prepared: Stock Up on the Basics
Let’s face it. No one wants to have to go shopping when you’re already feeling awful from a bad cold or the flu. As a mom, being sick is really the worst, especially when the kiddos come down with it too. But having to venture out to the store when you’re sick? Yikes! No thanks! Plus, no one at the store wants your germs! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying home if you’re sick with the flu to prevent spreading illness to others.
Here’s a suggested shopping list of comforting and healing items you can use to prepare yourself and your family in the event of illness. Be sure to check with your doctor and your child’s pediatrician to see if there’s anything else you’d need and make adjustments.
- Chicken broth and noodles to make soup
- Decaffeinated herbal tea
- Honey (for hot tea)
- Throat or cough drops
- Heat or ice packs
- Facial tissues
- Hand soap
- Over-the-counter pain reliever/fever reducer
- Fragrance-free laundry detergent
- Vital Oxide Disinfectant 32 oz bottle
- Vital Oxide Disinfectant 3 oz travel-sized bottle