Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10 things to prevent the flu, pt 2

1.       Get a flu shot.
2.       Wash your hands frequently.  Teach your children to wash their hands frequently at school or use hand sanitizer.
3.       Keep hands away from eyes, nose, and mouth.
4.       Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
5.       Clean hard surfaces
6.       Get enough sleep
7.       Exercise just enough
8.       Reduce stress and Laugh!
9.       Eat a nutritious diet
10.    Avoid sugar

Yesterday we talked about  1-5 and today we are continuing with last 5.
6.  Get enough sleep.
This one is one of the hardest for me.  With four kids, one teen who wants to stay up late and a baby that is up to nurse during the night…well, you get the picture.  But studies (including Bryant PA; Trinder J; & Curtis N. and Teodorescu MC; Teodorescu M.) continue to show a correlation to between illness and either not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep.  So how much sleep do you need?  And what about your kids?  Here is a chart from the National Sleep Foundation.

7. Exercise just enough
  In nurse practitioner school I learned that if you don’t exercise at all, you are more likely to get sick.  And if you exercise too much, you are more likely to get sick.  So, like sleep, the trick is to get just enough.  When I looked at the current research, it is still showing the same thing.  Moderate exercise most days leads to an improved immune system, while prolonged or intense exercise suppresses the immune system.  According to the Cleveland Clinic the general idea is to get 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise about 5 days a week.  So, what if you are an athlete?  Or if you have a child who is an athlete and exercises hard several days a week?  Take a look at the BASES guidelines.

8.  Reduce stress and Laugh!
According to Glaser and Kiecolt-Glaser, “Several studies have provided convincing evidence linking stress-induced immune dysregulation with morbidity and mortality.  Animal models that involve viral infections have confirmed that stress can exacerbate morbidity that is associated with a viral infection.”  That means that when someone is under stress their immune system works differently and this has been linked with people being more ill and also with death.  Another study shows the flu vaccine did not create immunity as well in individuals who were experiencing moderate stress.

There are many different healthy ways to reduce stress.  Try to notice if your children are under stress and help them find ways to unwind.  Exercise, yoga, an enjoyable activity, prayer, meditation are all good ways to reduce stress that our children can learn.  Besides preventing the flu, they will have learned a skill that will serve them for life.

Laughing has been shown to reduce stress and improve immune system function.  It doesn’t even matter why you are laughing.  You can laugh for no reason at all and it still has the same effect.  One of the ways we have used this in my family is by having “Laugh fests”.  One of us would declare a laughfest and then we would all laugh for no reason at all.  When we first started the laugh was fake, but after a few minutes the laughs became real and everyone had a good time.  It was so much fun and we all enjoyed it.

9.  Eat foods high vitamins and minerals
Zinc, selenium, iron, and antioxidant vitamins have all been shown to have an effect on children’s immune systems and infections. Lack of protein and or zinc can also affect the immune system.   (Look at this study).  The best way to get the vitamins and minerals is by eating foods that are high in these vitamins.  You might consider a supplement in some cases.  I personally supplemented Miss Froggie off and on when she was two and three with Vitamin C and Echinacea.  From what I understand Echinacea does not speed recovery from a virus, but may prevent getting one in the first place.  It seems to work best when used on and off instead of daily.

If you are feeding your family whole, real foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables you have this one covered.  One of the great things about eating local foods in season is that the foods are fresher and have more vitamins and minerals in them.  If you are looking for online resources for teaching kids about nutrition check out Departing the Text.

10.  Avoid sugar
  To my knowledge, there is only one study from 1973 that has been done investigating the role of sugar on the immune system.  100 g of glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice all caused the immune system to consume fewer bacteria.  100 grams of a sugar is about the same as in two 12-ounce sodas.  This is only one study.  Recent studies have found a relationship between a high-fructose diet and increased inflammation.  Inflammation and infection are both regulated or taken care of by the immune system.  Maybe there is a connection.  I’m not sure.  This might be a good time to look at my disclaimer.

As I was writing today’s post, I realized how much more there is to say on each of these 5 topics.  And how many of them are easy to know but hard to put into practice.  Some of them are easier to control for our kids than for ourselves.  And, when I am under stress I am likely to do poorly on the others on the list.  What ideas do you have for encouraging each other to live healthy and teach our kids the same?  Do any of the above five things really interest you? 

day2day joys


  1. I like the recommendation to laugh! Laughter is good medicine. Thanks for linking up to Healthy 2day Wednesday; come back next week to see if you were featured. :)