My kids have been sick a lot these last couple months. Just when one runny nose or cough is finally winding down, the next one shows up. It’s so draining and discouraging – for all of us!
So recently, I asked a group of parents for help. A few of these people are health experts (a Chinese medicine doctor, an acupuncturist, a pediatrician, a dietitian), but most are just loving parents who’ve done some trial and error to see what works best for their young kids.
Below is a list of products or habits that were mentioned many times by this group as boosting kids’ immunity – meaning their kids get sick less often, and when they do get sick the symptoms seem less severe and don’t last as long. Some of these are rooted in extensive scientific research, some aren’t. But since I don’t think any of the following practices can hurt (when given according to the directions), I wanted to share these with you.
10 Habits To Keep Your Kids Healthy This Winter
- Wash hands frequently with warm water and plant-based soap. This is the most obvious habit of all, but it’s worth mentioning because washing your hands with soap and water is WAY more effective than using hand sanitizer. Skip the antibacterial soap and opt for something gentle yet effective, like Branch Basics, Seventh Generation or Honest Company.
- Stick to an early bedtime. The one thing that’s proven to lessen the frequency of colds is getting enough sleep. Kids have to go to bed early to have any chance of fighting off viruses, so develop a family routine that allows for this. (How early depends on age/nap times, but for young kids early means no later than 8pm).
- Give a daily probiotic. I love Bio-K because it has 50 billion cultures per serving (kids take 1/4 of a bottle per day, so about 12 billion) and tastes like strawberry yogurt, so kids like it. I recently bought Garden of Life Organic Kids+ probiotic, which includes Vitamins C & D too, so I’ll probably alternate between these two products.
- Give fish oil daily. I’m not really a supplement person, but fish oil has been extensively studied and is the one supplement I’d recommend for nearly anyone, since it’s hard to get enough omega-3 fatty acids in a regular diet, even if you’re good about eating plenty of fish, avocados, walnuts, flaxseed etc. I like Nordic Naturals best.
- Give Vitamin D daily during winter months. Vitamin D is the one “antioxidant” that’s backed by research as maybe helping to prevent colds or lessen their severity. Vitamin C gets all the hype but it’s Vitamin D we need to be talking about, especially during winter months when the sun isn’t as strong.
- Rinse nostrils with saline spray. When you see a cold coming on, spray a couple pumps of saline in their noses (make sure you have a separate bottle for each kid so they don’t share germs) during bath time, which will help rinse out the virus. Saline spray can also help when there’s heavy congestion in the nose – just have them blow or use the Nose Frieda after you spray.
- Offer warm tea with honey and lemon. My favorite is Klio, because it tastes mild enough for kids and it’s immune-boosting powers are backed by science. I notice that when I give Lucy Klio with lemon and honey it dries her up a little, so it’s great before bedtime.
- Use Thieves Oil when a cold is coming on. I’m not knowledgable about essential oils, but many parents feel that applying Thieves oil (mixed with a carrier oil) on their children’s bodies or diffusing it in their room in an essential oil humidifier really helps fight off colds.
- Steam up the bathroom before bath time. I normally work hard to conserve water, but when we have colds I let the shower run for a few minutes before bath time, so the bathroom is warm and steamy when they hop in. We stay in there at least 20 minutes (that’s where I do the saline nose spray) – because nothing beats warm steam when you have a stuffy nose.
- Limit sugar. The research on this is spotty, but sugar and refined carbohydrates have been shown to increase inflammation in the body, and more inflammation is associated with poorer health. So whenever my kids seem to be coming down with something, I am careful to avoid excess sweets.
I’ve recently stocked up on products and created some new routines in the hopes that we get sick less often over the remainder of cold and flu season. I’ll let you know how it goes!
In the meantime, please leave a comment if you have any other habits you swear by!