The immune system defends the body against disease. During the cold and flu season, this system needs a good boost, so you can stay as healthy as possible. Let’s review some foods and habits that can help you and your family fight off acute diseases.
Habits That Can Help Protect You and Your Family
The COVID-19 pandemic called attention to an important hygiene habit – handwashing. Everyone should do it thoroughly and often all year round but particularly during cold and flu season.
Make sure you and your family wash your hands with mild soap and warm water for a full 15 seconds (or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”). Get in the habit of washing your hands before meals, after coming home from outside, after using the toilet, and after petting the family cat or dog.
Be sure you and your family are up to date on all vaccines, including the flu vaccine. Sadly, the common cold – caused by more than 200 rhinoviruses – has no vaccine, but some health practices – like frequent handwashing – can help reduce the risk of developing a cold.
Another important habit is covering your face with a tissue, handkerchief, or even a sleeve when a cough or sneeze comes on. Sneezes especially spread germs at high velocity over a wide area, contaminating hard and soft surfaces and being easily picked up by mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Additionally, be sure your family gets sufficient sleep every night. The younger the child, the more sleep is needed. Also, stay well hydrated to flush out disease-causing microbes via the urinary tract and to ensure oxygen and nutrients are well-distributed throughout the body.
Finally, regular exercise improves immunity and overall health and vitality. So, get the kids away from their screens and out into the fresh air with you. Even simple walks are great.
Foods That Help Fight Off Colds and Flu
Have you heard of phytonutrients? They are immune system-boosting nutrients found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Be sure your family eats about five servings of these natural powerhouses daily. Great choices include:
- Green beans
Amazingly, phytonutrients not only strengthen immunity against acute diseases but also against more serious, long-term problems, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Replace sweets with low-fat dairy products and whole grain breads and cereals. Anything sugary actually increases inflammation throughout the body, reducing the ability to fight off acute diseases, such as the flu, pneumonia, and the common cold. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children should have no more than 25 grams of sugar daily.
Lastly, increase your levels of vitamin D with eggs, fatty fish, such as tuna, and of course, vitamin D fortified low-fat milk. Push foods packed with beneficial vitamin C – such as melons and citrus fruits – and look for ways to incorporate zinc into the family’s diet. Zinc is found in higher levels in nuts, tofu, beans, and beef.
Expert Advice on Improving Your Child’s Immunity
In Purchase, NY, Westchester Park Pediatrics assists parents and children in developing healthy lifestyle and dietary habits to combat acute and chronic diseases. To learn more, book an appointment with one of our six pediatricians. We will be happy to discuss an immunity boosting plan for your family. Call today: (914) 761-1717, or you may request a visit online.