The Best Health Tips from Moms for Cold and Flu Season
In the Bag
Women who rarely get sick stock their purses with more than gum and ponytail holders. Try toting the following:
A lightweight wrap. You may be more susceptible to some germs when you're cold. A simple scarf keeps you cozy when it's chilly.
A water bottle. Staying hydrated helps the immune system function properly. It also keeps the mucus membranes in your nose moist and sticky to trap bacteria and viruses.
Hand sanitizer. A must for killing germs on the go. Use a product that's at least 60% alcohol.
A healthy snack. Good nutrition helps your body battle invaders. Apples are loaded with quercetin, an antioxidant that may help the immune system when your boy is stressed.
"When women live with children, the number of colds and other viruses they get increases significantly," says Charles P. Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist and environmental scientist at the University of Arizona. However, at some point during cold and flu season, a realization will hit you: All moms are not created equal. While most of us will spend weeks feeling lousy, others will stay perfectly healthy. We grilled seven of these women to find out how they manage to safeguard themselves against the germy masses—including their own offspring. Steal their secrets.
Rallie McAllister, MD, 53, family physician, co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great, and mom to 18-, 19- and 32-year-olds Lexington, KY How I stay healthy: "Every morning I drink a health shake. That way if my day gets crazy, at least I know it was off to a nutritious start. I'll combine whatever fruits and vegetables I have—blueberries and apples are my favorite—with a liquid multivitamin, some omega-3 oil, a probiotic supplement and extra vitamin D. I'll often add some protein powder and cinnamon because it has antibacterial properties and helps stabilize your blood sugar. When my family gets sick, I protect myself: If my husband has a cold, I change the pillowcases every night. Before handling a sick person's laundry, I spray the pile with Lysol, wait a few minutes before tossing it into the washer, and wash my hands when I'm done."
Stop the Spread, Stat!
The school nurse just called you to pick up your child early, which means it's only a matter of time before everyone under your roof gets sick as well. But it is possible to stop illness from taking down the whole family one by one! Charles P. Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist and environmental scientist at the University of Arizona, offers these suggestions.
Spray and wait. It's smart to clean refrigerator handles, doorknobs and faucets often. But many people spritz on a disinfectant solution and immediately wipe it off—which doesn't give it time to work, says Gerba. Instead, let the solution sit on surfaces for 3 to 5 minutes and allow to air-dry. Try Clorox 4 in One Disinfecting Spray (walmart.com, $5).
Use hand sanitizer at home. Slathering on sanitizer even once a day, in addition to frequent hand washing, can improve your chances of stopping the spread of illness throughout the household. Leave a dispenser on the nightstand of the ill family member and encourage him or her to use it. Choose a product that's at least 60% alcohol, such as Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Refreshing Gel (walmart.com, $3).
Switch up your towels. Gerba's research has shown that household towels contain traces of e. coli bacteria after just one day of use. Improper hand washing might be to blame, as well as leaving the toilet seat up when flushing (droplets can fly through the air). Swap out cloth towels every day or two, and when someone is sick consider putting out paper towels instead. Try Kleenex Hand Towels (target.com, $3).
Ditch the bar soap. Yes, germs really can live on it. Opt for liquid; a no-touch dispenser like Umbra's Otto (amazon.com, $30) or Simplehuman's Bath Sensor Pump (bedbathandbeyond.com, $50) is your cleanest option.