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Preventing Colds and Flus
© Rick Hanson, Ph.D., and Jan Hanson, L.Ac.
Both my toddler and his big sister seem to have a runny nose half the year, particularly during the winter. And their dad and I also have a cold more often than we'd like. Any advice?
Studies show that women are more prone to colds and flus after having children - and kids themselves are exposed to germs continually in childcare and preschool. So it's smart to take up arms against those microbial invaders!
Of course, check with your doctors, especially if a cold/flu is intense or prolonged, or accompanied by a significant fever. But on your own, there are plenty of things you can do. Just adapt the ideas below - which include what moms and dads can do for themselves - for kids, depending on their age and weight.
Step 1 - Turbocharge your immune system to prevent illness in the first place:
- Get as much sleep as possible
- Exercise routinely
- Do what you can to lower your stresses (which suppress your immune system)
- Minimize exposure to contagious people (to reduce demands on the immune system)
- Eat protein with every meal
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables
- Minimize sugar (which depresses immune system function)
- Take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement - Ideally, get a really good one from a health food store or our website, www.NurtureMom.com, that recommends four to six pills a day. For kids, look for flavored tablets or liquid.
- Take an essential fatty acid (EFA) supplement (which contains the "good fats") - Unless you are a strict vegetarian, we recommend high-quality fish oil that has been molecularly distilled to remove mercury (these days, to get all the EFAs you need from eating fish, you'd consume too much mercury, alas). Take about 1000 milligrams/day.
- If you don't want to take fish oil, consume about 1 tablespoon/day of flax oil in salad dressings or other nonfrying uses; also be sure to take both a multi-vitamin and B-vitamin complex in order to digest the flax oil properly.
Step 2 - If you feel a cold coming on, or it's already breached your defenses:
To Your Health
Besides being an uncomfortable experience, a cold or flu in either your child or yourself can be one more draining experience that tips you further toward developing the Depleted Mother Syndrome, so it's important to do everything you can to prevent them. The best long-term cure for frequent colds and flus is to optimize your own health and well-being. If there is any question about that, we heartily recommend using our book, Mother Nurture (Penguin, 2002), to feel less stressed, stay energetic and replenished, and build teamwork and intimacy with your mate - all of which will help get you through the winter, and beyond, in great shape.
About the Authors:
Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson, MS, LAc, is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they have two young-adult children. With Ricki Pollycove, MD, they are the first and second authors of Mother Nature: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at www.nurturemom.com or email them with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be possible.
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