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Preventing Colds and Flu

boy with fluHave you ever wondered why the flu hits in fall, winter, and early spring? I remember years ago learning that it is because people spend more time indoors, where viruses can spread more easily. But that is not the whole truth. This year in my state, where fall came early, the flu came early as well. Why is that?

Well, if you know Dr. Mercola at all, you already know the answer. This is something that he has talked about for quite a while, but unfortunately it has not hit the mainstream media...or people in general who tend to get flu shots and take drugs rather than practice prevention. The truth is...when people stop spending time outdoors, their Vitamin D levels drop. This is because our body produces Vitamin D when we spend time in the sun. When our sun exposure drops, so does our Vitamin D level. And Vitamin D is integral in overall health, including flu prevention and cancer prevention.

You should be able to get Vitamin D drops at your local drug or health food store. I suggest drops because they are easier to get into young children who need Vitamin D (they all do). So it's a great way to supplement the whole family. If you can't find them locally, get them here:

Vitamin D3 Drops 2,000 IU

While you might assume that your Vitamin D level should be adequate, (perhaps you spend a lot of time in the sun without sunscreen?) you might not learn it's low until you get a blood test because for some strange reason you keep getting colds, or perhaps you're always run down. This happened in my family. Despite the fact that I garden in spring and summer, don't wear sunscreen, and spend enough time outside to have tan skin, my Vitamin D level was low just after summer ended. My son's was low as well, and he had been suffering from fatigue, frequent colds, and general aches and pains. We were able to get his Vitamin D level up by using 50,000 IU Vitamin D once a week, in addition to a daily 5,000 IU Vitamin D with Vitamin K. He has done much better during fall and winter and I have as well.

You really should have your Vitamin D level tested to see where yours is. Low Vitamin D has also been implicated in cancer, so if you can figure out if yours needs to be increased you will do your body a huge favor. I've read that 80-90% of Americans have a low Vitamin D level, so chances are, yours is, too.

More Cold and Flu Prevention Tips

Preventing colds and flu is actually not a difficult feat if you plan ahead and are consistent with your methods. Contrary to popular belief, the way to avoid the flu is not a flu vaccine. As a matter of fact, I know countless people who year after year actually get the flu FROM the vaccine. (You will hear advocates of the vaccine say that they must have already had the flu virus at work in their bodies when they got the vaccine.) So whether or not you get the vaccine, you still need to take steps to prevent influenza virus from invading your body. First, let's examine some flu facts that need some attention, because there are many myths out there that need to be highlighted!

This information comes from Dennis Clements, MD, PhD, professor of infectious diseases and pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center:

  • Usually flu is spread by oral secretions -- most often by breathing in droplets expelled into the air by an infected person's cough. These droplets can land in your eye or nose; or they get on your face and you touch your face and then touch your mouth or rub your eyes or scratch your nose. You can also get the flu from sharing cups, glasses, or other household objects used by a person who has the flu.
  • When you get infected with the flu virus, it multiplies quietly in the body until you get symptoms of the disease and start excreting enough virus to give to someone else. That's the incubation period. For the flu, it is about two to five days. So if you are exposed today, you probably won't have any symptoms for three to five days.
  • Most adults are contagious for about five to seven days. With young children, it's longer. The youngest kids (1 to 2 year olds) can be contagious for 10-14 days.
  • A person begins shedding virus (becomes contagious) a day before symptoms appear. This can occur as soon as one day after exposure.
  • The flu virus can live on hard surfaces for about an hour. It depends on the moisture in the air and the temperature of the room.

When parents of little ones come to play groups with a child who has "been" sick, we often suspect that they still are. Usually, that's the case. I've even seen parents blame constant runny noses on allergies. A big misconception is that clear discharge from the nose is an allergy, or is not contagious. This is not true! If your child is still coughing, has a runny nose, or you can tell he is still congested when he talks, (you know what I mean) it is not time to bring him around other children. Often parents will get sick of staying home and want to get out, putting other children at risk. The best thing you can do is give your child a tool to fight the virus faster: a children's vitamin.

It's fairly safe to say that if you leave your house at any point during the fall or winter, you will come into contact with someone who has/had the flu, or you will touch something that has been touched by someone who has had the flu. So what can you do?

  • Turn away from people who are coughing or sneezing
  • Do not touch common surfaces such as handrails, door knobs, or eating surfaces (clean first)
  • Wash hands after shaking someone else's
  • Never let your guard down
  • Use an Airwise purifier in known "sick" buildings, day care centers, or your home
  • Get plenty of rest, eat well, and take vitamins to keep your immune system functioning well
  • Clean your children's hands frequently, especially when dining out, shopping, visiting playgrounds, etc.
  • Increase your Vitamin D intake with supplements (How much Vitamin D do I need?)

Admittedly, we were victims of the flu this winter (2006), and that is what encouraged me to write this article. Shortly after, I became neurotic about cleaning my children's hands well before eating, especially when we went to restaurants that have play areas. Imagine all of the children who play before your children get there, and all the germs left behind...yuck! But what is very discouraging about keeping kids' hands clean is having to go into disgusting restrooms that are harboring more germs than the play area! That is where Elizabeth, from Whole Life Essentials came into the picture. Elizabeth shared with me her hand wipe recipe which I tried and simply LOVE!! Since we had leftover cloth wipes from cloth diapering, and I'm not a fan of throw away wipes or the chemicals used in them, this was the perfect solution for me: re-usable wipes and a hand wipe solution that I can feel good about using on my children's hands (and that would kill viruses). Go to the hand wipe recipe now!

I hope that you have been able to avoid the flu this season. Do not push your luck, and please do everything you can to avoid it. I hope that being more vigilant will help us next year, since we were actually sick on Christmas day! I know that as long as I stay on top of it, my children and I will be healthy all year through.

All this is great, but what if you already have a cold or flu?