Cold weather, stress and crowds all spell a recipe for the winter sniffles. While for many dealing with the common cold is a natural part of winter – especially if there are children in school concerned, there are a few things the whole family can do to reduce long bouts of sickness.
Incorporate Foods with Essential Vitamins
One of the easiest ways to keep the immune system strong throughout Winter is to consume foods rich in immune boosting antioxidants. Luckily for your household budget, winter produce carries many of the essential vitamins necessary to fight cold, eliminating the need to buy expensive out-of-season produce.
In winter, you’ll need foods which carry the following vitamins:
- Vitamin D is important for keeping the immune system in tip top shape, but many Australians are currently lacking in it. According to a 2012 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, just under one in four Australians have a Vitamin D deficiency, with young people aged 18-34 year olds more likely to be deficient. So how do you get Vitamin D? Most people absorb Vitamin D through the sun, but as this is likely to be limited throughout winter, it can be found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as eggs, mushrooms, tofu, and dairy products.
- Zinc is a trace mineral essential for cell growth and carbohydrate breakdown. Studies on Zinc have noted that while high doses are not healthy, a regular consumption can reduce the intensity of a cold. You can find zinc naturally in foods like hummus, raw almonds, lamb, beef, pumpkin and ginger.
- Vitamin C has considerable antioxidant power, and can strengthen and protect the immune system, support and maintain connective tissue, and is essential for helping the body absorb iron – another essential winter vitamin. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, berries, cabbage, kiwifruit, peas, capsicum, potatoes, dark leafy greens, tomatoes and turnips.
- Iron is a component of haemoglobin, a substance found in red blood cells, which carries oxygen around the body; depletion in iron generally results in immune issues, irritability, weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Iron is found in spinach, beef, lentils, almonds, white beans, and if you’re looking for an excuse to have treats dark chocolate also possesses iron.
Exercise as a Family
It’s always a little bit harder to get up and moving during the colder season, and while motivation is likely to be at a low point, it’s important for immunity to keep active.
A study conducted by Professor Nieman from Appalachian State University saw participants partake in a brisk walk several times a week. The results can be seen as significant, with the number of sick days took were reduced by 40%.
If regular exercise is an issue with your family, make it a priority to do it together. There’s a benefit of group support and overall improvement to mood by exercising as a unit. If it’s too cold to go outside, there are plenty of indoor activities including indoor trampolining, cricket, and Zumba.
Pre-empt common viruses and infections by practicing good hygiene. Teaching kids to regularly wash their hands for at least 30 seconds before eating and after going to the bathroom, can instil life time good habits. Sharon Cooper, an associate professor from the University of Florida also says to “throw away a toothbrush you or anyone in your home has used while sick to avoid re-infection”.
Late nights and broken sleep can have an adverse effect on a family’s health, with a tired and stressed body being more susceptible to catching colds. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies indicate that lack of good quality sleep can take you longer to recover from illness, and over long-term, can increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The solution? Ensure everyone gets a good night’s rest.
Unlike summer, where the body craves water, it’s easy to forget staying hydrated with the cold weather in winter. Without sufficient water consumption, the body can become dehydrated and vulnerable to sickness and intestinal issues. Avoid dehydration by making sure each member of the family has a water bottle they can take with them. Alternatively, herbal tea is a good way to warm up and offers cold fighting antioxidants.
No one is completely immune from the common cold, but by helping to boost immunity, you could decrease the intensity and days spent lying in bed.