The winter break has arrived and with it, long car trips, sleepovers and an interruption in your children’s normal routine. For this and many other reasons, keeping your family flu-free and happy during the holidays can be a real challenge. Here are Patrick Holford’s top tips for a flu-proof holiday season.
- Wash hands often to help prevent the spread of germs.This is one of the most important habits that you can instil in your children, and there is no better time to start, than in the holidays. Washing hands regularly is the best way to prevent the transfer of bacteria. Get your children into the habit of cleaning their hands when they walk back into the house, especially after being in a public place, and before they eat.
- Make sure they get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for both your body and mind and a vital part of the health equation. A shortage of sleep can weaken the immune system, making the body vulnerable to illness.To make sure your children sleep well during the holidays by trying to stick to your normal bedtime routine, as far as possible. At night, the levels of the “stress” hormone cortisol should dip, calming your child down and preparing the body for sleep. If, however, their cortisol levels are out of balance (usually due to a diet high in stimulants or sugar) their ability to get to sleep and to sleep through the night is likely to be impaired. Habitual “telly-gazing” last thing at night will also hamper their ability to fall asleep. Exercise de-stresses and promotes calmness and a sense of well-being through the release of endorphins. Encourage your children to do something active every day, rather than slumping in front of the TV or computer.
- Load up on immune boosting foods. Good sources of immune boosting nutrients include carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beansprouts and berries. A good tip is to feed your family a rainbow of brightly coloured foods, as these foods rich in colour are high in immunity-boosting antioxidants. Red, yellow, purple, blue, and orange fruits and vegetables really fit the bill here. Stock up on sweet potatoes, berries – especially raspberries, blueberries and cherries, carrots and papaya. As far as you can, try to include oily fish (like tuna, mackerel and salmon) and seeds and nuts into their diet. These are all Vitamin D rich foods and will help keep the winter bugs at bay. In a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children who took daily Vitamin D supplements were 40% less likely to get a common flu virus than kids who took a placebo.
- Take in enough fluid. When you consider the fact that 60-70% of your body is water, then it should be number one on your health priority list. Yet many of us don’t drink enough in a normal day, never mind during the holiday period when our routine is unbalanced. Water regulates body temperature, delivers oxygen, lubricates joints, forms saliva, helps cell growth, keeps you regular and what’s more, hydrated bodies are less prone to catching bugs. Water also flushes toxins out of your system and is particularly good for preventing urine infections and kidney stones. Give your children a fun water bottle that they must fill and finish twice or three times a day.
- Remove sugar from your house. Sugar is not good news at the best of times, but studies show that it can actually depress immune activity, so try your best to steer your children away from too much sugar, especially if you are travelling and the temptation is high.
- There are a multitude of studies which demonstrate the immune-supporting effects of taking supplements. To keep your family’s immune systems fighting fit, Patrick recommends that you take a high strength multi vitamin and mineral complex as well as an antioxidant formula that contains vitamin C, Zinc and immune boosting nutrients like elderberry and ginger. If anyone does start to feel down, give them 1000g of vitamin C each hour until they recover – that’s what Patrick does, and it works.