'Tis the season…everyone mashed into malls and movie theaters everywhere, sharing everything we've got! Since the flu-shot is such a controversial topic I will not be delving into that one. As is the case with all vaccines, both sides (for & against) have an equal number of arguments/evidence/opinions. Much like your choice of political party the flu-shot decision is a very personal one. As for my family...no flu-shots for us. No matter what you decide(d), we can all use tips to avoid getting sick. There are a lot more bacteria and viruses out there than just the flu!
My first bit of advice would be to participate in outdoor activities as much as possible…fresh (not recycled) air and more space between you and others is always healthier. I know this is not always possible or realistic considering how nasty Winter weather can get. Next, I will remind you of some of the germiest (I know, not a word) things we come in contact with…top of my list is CELL PHONES! I wipe mine down every day using one of my favorite products, "Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes." Though my son loves buttons and electronics we don't just hand our phones over to him, and this is one of the reasons why. One time when he was around two-years-old I came around the corner to find a friend/family member showing him how to play on their phone. Within two days he came down with some yucky illness that had him covered in a speckled rash and spiking a fever. Who knows if there was a connection, but I thought so. According to NBC News, cell phones have 500 times the bacteria of a toilet (not sure if that's true, but they are gross nonetheless)! Other icky items to keep in mind (public bathrooms & transportation are obvious ones) include: purses (keep them off from your counters and tables), reusable grocery bags (be careful where you place these as well), shopping cart handles (wipe 'em down), gas pumps, and electronic devices. For other things you might not think of, and ways to protect yourself, check out these articles: "Your Cell Phone and Other Things that May Be Dirtier Than Your Toilet," and "Soap up! The 12 germiest places in your life."
By now we all know that one of the main ways to keep ourselves healthy is hand washing. Here's the thing…if we aren't doing it "right" it isn't doing us much good. Guess what? Most of us are failing miserably with this one. According to a Michigan State University study only 5% of people are washing their hands correctly…learn more here: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/eww-only-5-percent-wash-hands-correctly/ My favorite hand soap is CleanWell's Foaming Hand Soap. Remember, be sure to dry your hands thoroughly or germs stay on your hands! I also used to be a hand sanitizer freak until I realized that it could be doing a lot of harm, too. Not only do some reports claim that hand sanitizers don't work, some state that they are quite toxic. During those times when I am out and about and can't wash my hands I prefer the EO (EWG rating = 0) or CleanWell (EWG rating = 1) hand sanitizer sprays (or wipes). And whatever you do don't touch/rub your eyes…in a pinch at least use the back of your hand! If you have to have vision correction, wearing glasses (instead of contacts) adds a little protection from those spit-talkers, coughs, and sneezes. Speaking of which...
Hand hygiene gets you so far, but of course there is sneezing and coughing (and even talking and breathing) which send germs out into the air we breathe (check out "The Gross Science of a Cough and a Sneeze.") Short of wearing a mask (which most of us don't do) it feels like there isn't much we can do to protect ourselves from airborne pathogens. This is where self-care comes in. Sleep and optimal nutrition are obvious ones, but regularly blowing your nose and gargling help to clear out germs that can linger in your nasal passages for 24-48 hours. Here are some more tips from one of my favorite places, Kripalu: "Five Tips for Revving Up Your Immune System."
As a side note…if you had a child in the Winter months, then that means annual "well-visits" at the doctor's office during the least ideal time of the year. I suggest not letting your kids play with the toys in the waiting room! I have had friends tell me that they have taken their kids to the doctor for one thing and come home with another (very frequently picking up pink eye). I have been known to bribe my son with a new toy/treat/something else that is special (like watching TV, since he doesn't get to do that often) to keep away from the books and toys in the waiting area. Whatever it takes!
There are a couple of other tips and tricks we use at our house. We have a big, old stainless steel pot (no longer in good enough shape for cooking), and I put boiling water in it with some essential oils known for killing germs and clearing airways - Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Lavender, Lemon, Thieves, etc. Sometimes we set-up little "towel tents" and breathe over the steam, or we just leave it on the stove (or in a bedroom). As I also talk about in my post about our fave humidifier units, we dispense essential oils through them as well when there is stuff going around. (Note: If you are going to use essential oils they must be very high quality or they could be toxic, and some are harmful to children, etc…so learn before you use.) We also increase our intake of garlic, ginger, coconut oil, and other culinary health warriors that are known to kill germs. I suggest loading-up on other superfoods like goji berries, as well (learn more here: http://thewholepickture.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-berry-good-switch.html). I prefer getting vitamins and nutrients from food, but supplementing with Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, and Fish Oil are other good ways to pump up your immune system.
Also, remember that it is very important to keep your body warm. Once in the body, germs don't like heat which is why we get a temperature/fever to kill them. Throwing an extra sweatshirt on, or tossing a hot water bottle into your bed, keeps your circulation pumping. This keeps vital oxygen and nutrients moving to all of your systems and organs during this stagnant, freeze-up time of year. Acupuncture is yet another way we keep our bodies functioning at their optimal levels.
Hopefully this information will help you and your family dodge the flu bullet (and other illnesses) this season and throughout the year! Stay warm, well, and whole!