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Keeping your family healthy during the holidays is always top of mind. Of course, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s celebrations bring plenty of delicious food, sweets and holiday drinks. Not only can the calories add up fast, but with all the running around you and your kids are doing, everyone can feel stressed out, run down and be more susceptible to getting colds, infections and the flu.
Luckily, there are several ways to prevent you and your kids from getting sick and help you stay healthy during the holidays. Here are 7.
1. Get a flu shot
Last week, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the incidence of flu is higher than it was this time last year and seven children have already died.
There’s no way to tell how effective this year’s flu vaccine is until the end of the flu season, but since the flu is serious and can be deadly, any amount of efficacy is better than none, in my opinion. In fact, an October 2017 study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found the flu vaccine reduced admissions in the ICU, the duration of hospitalization and deaths.
To find a place that offers flu shots, check the CDC’s flu vaccine finder tool.
If your kid shows symptoms of the flu or you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with his doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can make a diagnosis and prescribe Tamiflu, which may reduce the duration of the flu.
2. Take probiotics
The gastrointestinal tract—the gut—is responsible for 70 percent of the body’s immunity so it’s important to make sure it’s as healthy as it can be.
One way to boost your kid’s immune system and fend off illness is to take probiotics. I like Culturelle Probiotics because they contain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), a type of probiotic strain that is backed by years of research. Yogurt and fermented foods like kefir, kimchi and tempeh are good sources of probiotics too.
3. Stock up on healthy meals
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave little time to cook healthy meals and force you to order take-out, go out to dinner or hit the fast food drive through. Rely on convenience food several days a week and watch as everyone in the family packs on the pounds, feels sluggish and becomes constipated.
To make sure your family eats healthy, use your Crock-Pot to make soups, stews and healthy meals that can be made ahead of time. Or carve out some time on the weekends to make double batches of meals to stock your freezer with and dinners will be a breeze.
4. Curb sweets
Christmas is a few weeks away but eggnog (my purchase) and chocolate (a gift) have already made their way into my house. Kids should be able to have treats but eating sugar day after day spikes their blood glucose levels, can lead to weight gain and make them feel sluggish, cranky and want more sugar.
We let our kids have a small bite of chocolate after dinner and the rest of it was stored out of sight until Christmas day or until we can re-gift it to someone else.
5. Fill up on fruits and vegetables
To make sure your kids are the healthiest they can be, do your best to encourage them to eat plenty of vegetables which will give the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they need. Some good choices include green leafy vegetables, grapefruit, carrots, strawberries and pumpkin.
You can easily get several fruits and vegetables in smoothies or homemade juices or simply make it a point to add them to every meal and snack.
6. Remind kids to wash their hands
Kids are constantly swapping germs: they sneeze and cough on each other, rub their noses, put their hands in their mouths and touch the same germ-infested books, toys and surfaces all day long. When they’re in school, research shows they’re not washing their hands frequently. According to a 2011 survey by The American Cleaning Institute, 43 percent of kids said they don’t wash their hands as much as they should in school because they don’t have the time.
The last thing you want is to have to make your way to the doctor or have a sick kid on the holidays. When they’re on your watch, make sure they’re washing their hands regularly especially if they’re sick, before they eat and always after using the bathroom. Encourage them to wash their hands when they’re at daycare, school and activities too.
It’s also important to teach them proper hand washing practices. Show them how to scrub all surfaces of their hands including their fingernails with plenty of soap and water for 20 seconds—the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Then rinse and dry well. When soap and water aren’t available, encourage your kids to use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
7. Stay active
Exercise is a great way to boost the immune system but when it’s cold out, kids are usually stuck at home on their iPads.
If your kid isn’t already in some form of sport or after-school activity, consider signing him up. Make exercise a family affair too by taking a hike before dusk, a walk to see your neighbor’s Christmas lights, going to an indoor trampoline park or ice skating rink or simply putting on holiday music and having your own dance party.