With winter edging ever closer and cold season getting ready to rear its ugly head, now is the time to start boosting your family’s immune systems so everyone can ward off nasty bugs later. Not sure how? Don’t worry! Today, we’ll talk about 10 things to do now to keep your family healthy all winter long.
Things to Do Now to Keep Your Family Healthy All Winter Long
Did you know that the average person gets 2-3 colds a year, each lasting around 7-10 days? Or that the CDC estimates that colds cost kids a total of 22 million school absences throughout the year? That’s just for the common cold alone. Factor in the flu, stomach bugs, and other seasonal nasties, and those numbers skyrocket.
Plus, have you ever noticed how bugs seems to stagger themselves throughout your family? You get sick, then a week later it hits your kids, then the next your spouse, then back to you and the vicious cycle continues. Before long, it feels like everyone has been sick for months without a single break in between.
While it’s almost impossible to completely avoid all bugs throughout the season, there are things you can- and should- do right now to help keep everyone a lot healthier later. Here’s a hint: popping vitamin C like it’s going out of style is NOT one of them! Well, not on its own anyway. So, what can you do? Keep reading to find out!
One last note: none of this is meant to be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition or take certain medications, you’ll want to talk to your doctor before trying any of the tips that involve taking herbs or supplements.
1. Start boosting your immunity with echinacea
Echinacea is one of the most popular immunity boosters, but did you know that it doesn’t really work well if you start taking it during a cold? While science can’t seem to decide if it works as a preventative either (some studies say yes, others say not so much), hundreds of years of use in Native American medicine shows otherwise. Since echinacea is well-tolerated by most people, it’s one of those “can’t hurt to try” things.
Like most herbal remedies, though, you can’t just pop one echinacea capsule and expect it to ward off the common cold. It takes time to work. Rather than waiting until the last minute, start adding it to your daily supplement regimen now. If you need a recommendation, I really like the one below. It has three different types of organic echinacea and nothing else (except the vegan capsules, of course).
2. Add these immune-boosting ingredients to your recipes
This tip isn’t just a great natural way to protect your family from the flu and keep your family healthy, it’s tasty, too! Your diet plays a huge role in how weak or strong your immune system is. Give it an ongoing boost by adding ingredients that are scientifically proven to boost immunity.
For example, a 2012 study found that white cap mushrooms significantly boosted certain chemicals in the body that are directly tied to your immune system. Basically, it works by keeping your mucus system healthy. Gross, I know, but one of the most important jobs of that system is to act as a defense again all the germs that you inhale through your nose and mouth every day. When it’s out of whack, you’re more likely to get sick.
Other immune-boosting foods include garlic (a powerful antibiotic), coconut water, ginger (like in this homemade ginger ale recipe) and good old chicken noodle soup. The last has been scientifically proven to help relieve cold symptoms and boost immunity, so it’s not just an old wives’ tale.
You don’t have to eat immune-boosting foods at every meal to keep your family healthy, just work them into your regular meal plan throughout the week. For foods that you simply can’t stand, supplements, like those below, can help fill in the gaps.
3. Improve your gut health
While we’re talking things you can put into your body to boost your immune system (like supplements and healthy ingredients), we definitely have to bring up probiotics! As mentioned in “things you need to know about supplements,” a good portion of your body’s immune system lives in your digestive tract, and probiotics help keep that whole system running smoother.
Again, getting probiotics through your diet is best. However, if you’re just not a yogurt fan (or can’t eat it for other reasons), probiotic supplements work very well, too, as long as you choose a good brand. Check out my favorite below.
4. Supercharge bath time for the whole family
We talked about what to put into your body for a healthier immune system, now let’s talk about the outside. If you read my supplements article, you know important magnesium is to your body. We’re talking “you cannot live without it” important. Yet, so many Americans are lacking in the mineral. That’s where bath time comes in super handy!
Grab the Epsom salts, you’re going to need them! See below for my favorite brands. Start by supercharging your kids’ bath time with these fun detox bath bombs. If you’re not in the mood to make them (although they’re super easy), you can also just put together this simple detox bath recipe. That one requires nothing more than mixing two ingredients and tossing them in the tub. Hang onto it for your own bath!
One of the benefits of Epsom salts is the magnesium content. While a bath won’t give you enough of it if you’re severely deficient, it will help give your immune system a nice little boost and help kick toxins to the curb.
5. Plan a healthy winter exercise regimen
While experts and scientists can’t seem to get on the same page about most immunity boosters, they all agree that exercise has enormous benefits! Aside from all the other reasons your body needs exercise (from heart health to muscle and both health), a good workout also helps flush toxins from your body.
The problem? While we tend to be very active during the spring and summer when it’s nice out, it’s harder to get moving in the dead cold of winter. So, right now while it’s still nice out, sit down with your family and plan an exercise regimen that you will all enjoy in the colder months.
What goes into that regimen is totally up to you. If you live up north, invest in a season lift pass (and ski lessons if you need them) and hit the slopes once a week. For those in the south, take advantage of the cooler (yet not freezing) weather to hike a few nature trails or check out some national parks that it’s always too hot for in the summer. Just make a plan…and plan to stick to it to keep your family healthy all winter long!
6. Schedule relaxation time into your busy schedules
While you’re adding immunity boosters to your schedule, make sure you jot down a few ways to relax both individually and as a family. If you can pencil in some meditation or yoga classes, great. If that’s not your thing, no problem. Plan a monthly “stay home and do-nothing day.” Of course, doing absolutely nothing is boring for the kids, so you can grab supplies for some easy crafts, check out some great library books, or plan for other quiet activities for a relaxing day.
The key is to choose things that help relieve your stress, since stress is enemy number one to a healthy immune system. All that cortisol that it dumps into your system wreaks total havoc on your well-being.
7. Go out with friends more often
If you checked out my post on why women should go out with friends more often, you already know about the great benefits of a girls’ night out. Need a refresher? As Harvard Health explains, strong social connections with friends and family has a ton of health benefits, thanks to the “feel good” hormones released during the gatherings.
Those hormones help combat stress, which as we saw above is a major contributor to an unhealthy immune system. If going out with friends twice a week just isn’t possible, make a point to schedule in phone conversations (actual conversations, not just texting) once a week to reconnect with each other and strengthen your bond.
8. Laugh more!
You know how they say laughter is the best medicine? Well, turns out science agrees! Laughter has so many health benefits, including releasing endorphins that help relieve pain and stress, improving your blood flow, and boosting your immune system through the release of antibodies.
Take advantage of those benefits and keep your family healthy by scheduling a monthly family movie nights that revolve around comedies. Better yet, buy your kids a few joke books, like those below, and let them do weekly stand-up routines for you! Make it a point to laugh every single day, even if it’s just for a minute, and you’ll strengthen your defenses against cold bugs all winter long.
9. Give your home a health checkup
You know how your doctor gives you a routine checkup once a year? Well, apply that same diligent once-over to your home! Think of it as fall cleaning, except rather than deep-cleaning things like curtains and the area behind your stove, you’re going over the parts of your home that play a huge role in keeping you healthy.
First, don’t go nuts trying to sanitize everything before a virus hits. After, sure, but a too-clean home can actually hinder your kids’ immune systems, not help. We all need exposure to everyday germs to help build up our immunity.
Instead, focus on the things that can spread germs and allergens throughout your home when it’s sealed up for winter. Check your heating vents and baseboards to make sure they’re clear of dirt, grime and dust. Ditch the harsh chemical cleaners and swap them out for natural ones. If you’re still wearing shoes inside the house, check out this article, then set up a spot inside your door to ditch the shoes! A clean (but not overly sanitized) home will go a long way towards keeping your family healthy all winter long.
10. Re-evaluate Your Family’s Sleep Quality
Last, but far from least, take a good hard look at your family’s sleep schedule and overall quality. Sleep plays a massive role in keeping your immune system healthy, especially during the winter. It’s not enough to just tuck your kids in early and spend 8 hours in bed, though. Quality matters just as much as quantity.
Tonight before bedtime, go into each room and give it a good hard look to figure out what needs to be changed. Make bedrooms an electronics-free zone. Banish blue-light clocks and other devices (they trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime). Install black-out curtains if you notice your neighbor’s porch light shining in through your window. Basically, do everything possible to make the space serene and conducive to a great night’s sleep.
While following these tips for things to do now to keep your family healthy all winter long will give your immune system a good boost, just remember that it’s impossible to avoid every single germ. If your family does get sick, try these 7 natural remedies that will get you through cold and flu season!
Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API