Staying Well When the Kids Are Sick

Moms everywhere are familiar with the scenario: You're nursing your child through a bout with a bad cold or stomach flu, knowing all the while that within a few days, you'll be experiencing the same misery yourself.

Before you had children, it was probably fairly easy to avoid catching illnesses; you simply stayed away from people who were sick until they got better! Now, as a mother, your natural compassion and love for your kids throws you right onto the frontlines comforting, cleaning, wiping, and keeping watch at the bedside through the night.

Catching the latest virus going around is one of the on-the-job hazards of being a mother, especially if your child is in school or daycare. Most of us have come to accept this as a fact of life, but it's something all parents dread.

Concerns about new, stronger viruses, such as H1N1, have caused many parents to set illness-prevention as a high priority. Flu can, at times, lead to more serious problems, bringing with it the emotional and financial strain of hospital stays and medical bills.

Even if the illness is your garden-variety seasonal complaint, it's still no fun. When the whole family ends up passing around a bug, it can lead to lost time at work and school, expenditures for over-the-counter remedies, and the stress generated by a household of unhappy individuals.

Luckily, you're not completely helpless against the invisible invaders among us. There are strategies you can put to use to help keep you protected, strong and healthy even when other people in your household are sick.

Practical Defense

The common sense ways of avoiding the spread of germs are well known to most parents, but it doesn't hurt to go over them again. Sometimes, when your child is sick, you're so focused on being a caretaker that you can easily lose sight of these simple ways to avoid becoming ill.

Wash your hands frequently. If you're dealing with a sick child, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after coming into contact with the child. Make sure your hand washing is effective; a quick swish under the water probably won't do the trick.

According to The Centers for Disease Control, a 20-second scrub should be enough. A gel hand-sanitizing product also comes in handy. It can kill germs hand-washing may have left behind, or it can be used in a pinch when you can't get to a sink.

Most respiratory illnesses, like the common cold or flu, are spread through the air. When a sick person sneezes or coughs, their germs find their way into the air and can be inhaled by other people. Teach your children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. You can also use a spray disinfectant to kill airborne germs.

Don't forget that germs can live on surfaces. Use disinfecting wipes or sprays to attack germs on surfaces your children frequently touch, such as computer keyboards, refrigerator handles and doorknobs.

Kids like to wrap themselves up in their coziest blankets when they're sick and these comforting objects can pick up lots of germs. Wash sick kids' bedding in hot water to make sure they're extra-clean.

Immune Boosters

Even when you follow all the rules for keeping germs at bay, some are bound to make their way into your body. Thankfully, our bodies have an immune system to help fight these germs off and keep them from becoming full-blown illnesses. In healthy people, the immune system does a great job fighting off illness, but it can always use a little extra boost, especially when cold and flu season comes around.

Eating a healthy balanced diet is one important way to keep your immune system strong. This is easier said than done, but it's definitely not impossible. Make sure you're getting adequate protein and other nutrients in your diet. A good-quality multi-vitamin can give your diet some extra help.

Keeping hydrated is another way to keep your body at its best. True, water can taste a bit boring, but you can always jazz it up with some flavoring. Flavored herbal teas work well for this, and they're caffeine free. Another simple and tasty way to flavor water is with lemon juice.

Lemon is a great immune booster because it helps balance your body's supply of healthy bacteria. For sweetness, add some honey or stevia. Stevia is a plant-based natural sweetener that is fairly new on the mainstream market. It's about 300 times sweeter than sugar so a little goes a long way.

Staying fit doesn't just help you look great; it benefits your immune system too. Even during the frosty days of cold and flu season, be sure you make time for some physical activity. Walk around the block, take the stairs at work, or go sledding with the kids.

Do your best to maintain good mental health. When you're stressed or anxious, your body can't properly fight off illness. Use relaxation techniques and other stress-management strategies to help keep your mind in a positive place. Seasonal depression can affect the immune system, too, so be sure you're getting enough sunlight. Get outdoors on sunny days and talk to your doctor about treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Natural Remedies

Echinacea is the most popular natural immune-system enhancer available. Many people swear by it, and wouldn't go a winter without it.

Probiotics help maintain a healthy stomach, but they also contribute to the overall health of the body's immune defense. You can take probiotics year-round to keep your body working in top condition.

Occillococcinum is a difficult to pronounce but easy to use homeopathic treatment for flu. It's said to be effective against flu symptoms when taken at the first signs of illness. It has performed well in clinical trials and is available at many national drugstore chains.

There are many natural supplement products that have (or claim to have) immune-boosting potential. Always do some homework before shopping for these products so you get one that's right for you.