10 Tips For a Healthy Immune System This Cold and Flu Season

It’s January, and it’s that time of the year when all parents want to know: How Can We Prevent one more Cold, Sore Throat, Boogers, Cough?  How can we have less missed days of school and work?

1 – Teach kids to cough in elbows.

Each cough and sneeze carries about 200 million virus particles.  It only takes One Virus particle to infect a new person.

Parent Tip: Use confetti as a visual aid for those who overlook this important point.

2 – Wash hands often with soap.

Viral particles can exist for a few hours on paper surfaces and for days on plastic (desks, binders, phone cases, workout equipment) and metal (door knobs, shopping carts).  Beware of the Antibacterial Soaps.  Watch this video:

3 – Fever = stay home 24hrs

A common situation I encounter in my practice is the following:  Previously well child wakes up at 1AM with fever.  Parents give child a fever reducing medicine.  Everyone goes back to sleep.  In the morning the said child awakens without fever or symptoms and everyone rejoices and sends child to daycare, school, or sporting activity.  Later that day child has fever again.  Child has now infected 20-50% of his teammates or schoolmates.

Take home point:  Viral illnesses generally come with Fevers lasting 3-5 days +/- other symptoms.  Please, do not send kids to out of home activities unless they have been without fever for more then 24hrs WITHOUT medication.  Prevention of cold and flu is a community affair!

4 – Beware of simple sugars and processed foods.

Reduce! Reduce! Reduce intake of foods that have added sugars.  Just saved you money!  You are welcom.

Clinical studies,  show that sugar decrease the activity of antibodies within 30 min of being eaten.  Antibodies are the cells in our body that fight infection.  The effect was noted to start at 30min, peaked at 1-2 hrs, and lasted up to 5hrs after sugar was consumed.  Not convinced?  Let me ask you this:  Have you noticed how many kids get sick after a birthday party?  The party consists of the same kids from school/day care/neighborhood.  How come so many get sicker after a party then after a school day?  Watch this video:

5 – Food is the Best Vitamin.

Before reaching for vitamins and pills, look at what’s on your plate.  Make Fruits and Vegetables a priority at every meal.  The goal is 8-10 servings a day, which will provide you with all the micro and macro nutrients needed to fight the cold and flu viruses ( One Study out of hundreds).  Each color of a fruit or vegetable provides different vitamins and antioxidants important for the immune system.  Eat the rainbow every day.  Prevention begins with what’s on your plate.

Parent Tip: Have your children draw a rainbow and see how many colors they can eat in a day.  There are rainbow charts available on line.  Make it a family contest.

eat the rainbow.jpg

6 – Stay Well Hydrated.

Drink water, herbal teas, bone broth, or coconut water.  No sugar drinks – no sports drinks, store bought juices, soda, flavored waters, etc.  How much fluid you should have a day?

Formula:  weight (lbs)/2 = ounces of fluid per day

7 – Eat Fermented Foods.

Foods such as Kombucha, Kimchi, Sauerkraut, and Kefir contain beneficial probiotics (gut bacteria).  70% of our immune system is found in the gut.  Furthermore, we have about 3.3 trillion bacteria in our guts.  Depending on your lifestyle and medical conditions, the bacteria present in your gut can help you or hurt you.  Thus, eat more fermented foods (aim for one serving daily) to build up the immune system in your gut with the good guys.

8 – Get Out and Exercise.

Numerous studies have shown that moderate exercise improves immune system function and leads to less cold and flu symptoms.  Brilliant article with references

9 – Make Sleep a Priority.

Research shows that getting less then 6hrs of sleep at night QUADRUPLES your chances of getting a cold. Sound familiar my parents of teens in High School and College??  A study shows that sleep deprivation decreases your body’s response to immunization. Adult subjects were given a set of immunizations, half slept as usual and half were kept up most of the night. Levels of antibodies to the vaccines were drawn. Subjects in the sleep deprivation group had 50% less antibodies then those who slept.

10 – Beware of Antibiotics

80-90% of illnesses in kids are viral in origin.  Fevers do not indicate a need for antibiotics in majority of cases.  Sore throats are not strep throat until proven otherwise.  Congestion does not mean a sinus infection.  Use of antibiotics increases your risk for catching a viral illness.  One dose of antibiotics will destroy 30% of your gut bacteria.  Gut bacteria is pivotal in your defense against viruses and other infections.  Watch this video:

In Good Health, Ana-Maria Temple, MD

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