I love fall. The crisp air, the smells, the memories. But I also know it means that sick season is upon us. In fact, as I write this, I have two kids who are making me wonder if we are about to battle a stomach bug.
I have 8 kids and one of my kids has Down syndrome. I know all too well that when flu season arrives, there is a special kind of dread that spreads through large families and special needs families alike. It seems that once illness arrives, it just likes to linger and pass from child to child. And when parents get sick, it is very difficult to care for a large flock.
I wish I could cure all the sicknesses or wish them away, but life doesn’t work that way. So in this post, I’m going to share with you some self-stewardship ideas that will help you to prevent illness from coming to your home. Be sure to check out part two of this series for ideas on how to stop illness once it has started making the rounds in your family.
Oh, and I'll tell you some of these tips are not my own. Many of these tips come from wise and experienced mommas in the Large Flock Mommas group. (If you aren’t in that group, come join us!)
We can’t all live in bubbles. We are exposed to germs at stores, church, school, work and more. I’ve found that as my kids have gotten older and go off and do their own things, they are exposed to even more illness than they did when they were little and we went everywhere together. We are also primarily a homeschool family, but I have two sons who go to public high school with 3,000 other students, so every day they bring home a lovely bouquet of all kinds of lovely germs.
Here are some ways to prevent serious illness in your home. Some are commonplace self-stewardship practices, and some suggestions might be new to you. I will say that I am not a doctor, so if you choose to implement some of the suggestions, use common sense on whether or not it is an appropriate fit for your needs.
1. Supplement Your Life
We’re all familiar with the recommendation for taking Vitamin C to prevent illness. That’s definitely a great start! Another supplement that you should consider is Vitamin D. Most of us are deprived of Vitamin D—especially in the winter. In fact, I recently heard a chiropractor suggest that part of why we are so prone to sickness in the winter is because of lack of vitamin D.
Curcumin is another supplement that is really good for boosting immune health and reducing inflammation in the body. It comes from the spice turmeric. And the National Institutes for Health suggest that it can possibly downregulate the expression of some genes that are responsible for allergies and asthma. I recommend taking Longvida Curcumin. Or you could drink what’s called “Golden Milk” which is basically a turmeric and spice drink in a milk of your choice.
Another supplement that I personally take a lot in the winter is N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). I had pneumonia several times as a teen, and ever since, it seems like every virus goes straight to my lungs. NAC is a powerful anti-mucous supplement that is frequently given to cystic fibrosis patients. It really helps me break up chest congestion, and if I take it regularly, I find that often I don’t get lung infections and heavy, wet coughs. It’s also helped my father in law get over pneumonia. I do know it’s not a perfect fit for everyone, so be sure to do your research.
2. The Toothpaste Connection
Probably a decade ago, we all got the flu. That was when a wise mentor of mine recommended that we buy separate tubes of toothpaste for each person in the family. Previously, they had been sharing.
I will tell you, something as seemingly insignificant as using separate tubes of toothpaste has made a big difference! There are fewer times that all the kids have been taken down by an illness. Usually now it’s just one or two at a time—which is much easier to handle!
3. Plan Your Appointments Wisely
I get it that you can’t always avoid the doctors office during sick season, but during the winter time, the pediatrician’s clinic is full of coughing, feverish children. It doesn’t matter if there are separate waiting rooms for well and sick kids—it’s a perfect place for picking up some nasties.
But you can avoid pre-planned appointments. Try to plan your kids’ well-child checks at a different time in the year when they won’t be exposed as much.
The same goes for dentist appointments. I know everyone practices good handwashing and gloving at the dentist, but you still have someone’s hands in your mouth and several faces up close. I just make it a general practice to not go in the winter if I can avoid it.
4. Wipe, Wipe, Wipe
Wipe everything down. Make it a habit. Have your kids help you. We wipe anything that gets a lot of traffic—light switches, doorknobs, toilet handles, stair rails, faucets, refrigerator handles, etc.
Also, as a side note, I don’t use disinfecting wipes. I don’t know if you have read the fine print, but you have to keep a surface wet for up to 15 minutes to sterilize it. Plus, they leave a residue and I don’t like having those kinds of chemicals in my house either.
I personally love Norwex microfiber cloths. They get everything shiny clean plus they remove the germs effectively. In fact, I would dare say that our family’s overall health has noticeably increased since switching to Norwex 4 years ago. Chances are that you know someone who sells Norwex. If not, their website has a search function so you can find someone near you. There are other somewhat similar options on the market as well.
If you are looking for a non-toxic cleaner that actually kills the germs, and you like spraying things down, try something like Thieves spray. It smells so good!
Whatever you choose to use, the main point is to make a routine of diligently wiping down surfaces that are easily contaminated.
5. Drink Bone Broth
Why is chicken noodle soup something that we associate with healing and comfort during illness? Bone broth! (If it isn’t the canned variety of soup.) There are many recipes for making bone broth. We prefer chicken. I make mine with the carcass of a whole chicken that I cook for the family, plus scraps of veggies that I’ve chopped up.
Good bone broth is jiggly when cold, much like gelatin dessert. In fact, it’s the gelatin and collagen from the bones that make it so good for you. It’s really easy on your stomach and helps to heal gut inflammation. And it’s loaded with healthy amino acids. Considering your gut is where your immune system begins, it’s important to not neglect it!
The good news is that if you aren't the cooking type, there are lots of options for high quality store bought bone broth. This is the one I have used when I didn't have any homemade broth in my freezer. You can find it in the freezer section at a lot of grocery stores.
6. Love the Bacteria
Speaking of gut health, it’s important to embrace bacteria. The good kind, that is! Take a nice quality probiotic every day, or at least drink kefir or eat cultured foods like yogurt.
7. Turn Up the Heat
This is another tip I got from the Big Flock Mommas group. I wouldn’t have thought of turning up the hot water heater temperature, but I think it makes sense. Obviously, if you are concerned that a kid is going to get scalded, be careful. But having super hot water in your heater will help kill germs on faucets and in the dishwasher and laundry.
8. Limit Sugar
Consuming sugar actually stuns your immune system for a couple hours. Who knew? The winter seems to be the time that we like to eat all the sugary treats, but eating all those sweet treats is turning off your white blood cells that fight infection. So research shows that limiting sugar could help you fight off germs better.
9. Rest For The Weary
Rest is so good for our bodies! We all need time to recuperate and rebuild in our sleep. So don’t neglect it. And with all the added stress around the holidays, we tend to not rest as well as we should. You could schedule some self-stewardship time to rest each day. Or at very least, make sure you are getting adequate sleep.
10. Sunshine Is Your Friend!
I mentioned earlier how important Vitamin D is. Definitely take it as a supplement. But sunshine and fresh air is your friend. Sure, it’s cold in the winter, but getting outside will give you some much needed sunshine and Vitamin D. Plus, did you know that air quality in your home is much worse than outside? Whether you just sit on your porch or go for a hike, it’s going to help you (and your mental health, too!) especially after times of being homebound due to weather or illness.
11. Just Say No
Sick season also happens to be at the peak of indoor entertainment season. Think of all those Friendsgiving meals and Ugly Sweater Christmas parties we always get invited to. If you are concerned about your health, or if you have extenuating circumstances, it’s okay to say no. The extrovert in me doesn’t usually recommend staying at home, but I get it. When my son Silas, who has Down syndrome, was little, we had to be very careful. It even meant frequently missing church when we heard some illness was going around. Staying at home or just having one person do the shopping isn’t the best idea for everyone, but if you are very prone to illness or have special needs, absolutely do it without any shame!
Which of these tips do you already use to keep your family healthy? Did you learn something new that you want to implement?
Dreading the Seasonal Clothing Swap?
Fall doesn't just mean sickness! It also means seasonal clothing switch out. If the thought of switching out seasonal clothes is overwhelming, grab my free printable step by step guide. It will help you get organized and make swapping clothes as painless as possible!