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Help Keep Your Kids Healthy Through the Cold & Flu Season

While kids are getting excited about hitting the slopes, local families are bracing for a brutal cold and flu season. Although parents can't control everything, when it comes to their kids' health, there are preventative measures that may help limit the impact.

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Havilah Brodhead is a family nurse practitioner and the owner of Hearthside Medicine Family Care in Bend. She works with local families and warns that influenza, strep, norovirus, RSV, pertussis, pneumonia and rhinovirus are coming. Brodhead explains that more illnesses are born in colder months because people spend more time inside where microscopic droplets from cough or sneeze are invisibly suspended mid-air, just waiting to be inhaled.

The good news, according to Brodhead, is that our immune systems are primed for what she calls a systemic, underground warfare, ready to protect us with layers of defense. "One of our most under-appreciated defense systems works as a physical barrier: our skin," she explains. "Beneath our skin circulates our under-armor powerhouse: antibodies."

The human body is undeniably incredible, but there are ways to help it out during the cold and flu season. Brodhead suggests taking some of the following steps to help fortify your family members' immune systems for the months to come.

8 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy Through the Cold & Flu Season

Encourage sleep: Lack of sleep sends bodies into a stress response, which lowers immunity. As a rule, preschoolers (ages 3-5), should get between 10-13 hours of sleep each night. Children ages 6 to 13 need 9-11 hours, and adolescents ages 14-17 require between 8-10 hours.

Decrease stress and pressure: You've likely heard about the toll stress takes on our immune systems. Teach your child healthy coping mechanisms and mindfulness. Anxiety, stress and depression often result in higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which lowers the immune system. 

Increase the joy and cuddles: Multiple studies show that people who are positive tend to have more robust immune systems. Laughter has been documented to increase immunity! Hugging, cuddling and having skin-to-skin contact does wonders for mental and physical health. 

Use warm water and soap over hand sanitizers whenever possible. Recent research revealed that even just rinsing hands in water prevents the flu more successfully than using hand sanitizers. Also, most hand sanitizers contain some ingredients that may be more harmful than good. 

Protect your skin: Don't neglect that important first line of defense. Keep your skin free from cracks by using a thick moisturizer and, staying hydrated.

Food as medicine: Whenever you are able, choose organic, colorful fruits and vegetables and add them to every meal. Use organic whole grains for carbohydrates.

Proper sneezing technique: Teach your children to cough and sneeze into their elbows rather than into the air.

Choose your supplements wisely and be conservative: Exercise caution with supplements, especially pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, infants and young children. Some are safe while some are not so safe. Some can interact seriously with prescription medications or exacerbate health conditions. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so what is in the actual product may not be what is on the label or may be contaminated.

Our bodies are prepared to go to war during this cold and flu season. So, stock your fridge with healthy, organic foods and get ready to do a whole lot of cuddling. There are worse ways to spend your winter days.

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