Our Facebook page has been inundated lately with people wanting to know how to either kick a cold themselves or to help their child get over a cold virus.

Sadly, there is no natural magic bullet for beating the cold and flu, but a healthy lifestyle and a dose of prevention can shorten the symptoms. I’d like to clear up a very common misconception.

When people refer to “the flu”, they often are referring to a sudden onset of a stomach bug marked by vomiting and diarrhea.

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However, Influenza is actually a respiratory virus. It can often mimic the common cold, though it comes on much quicker, and is marked by a high fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and often, sneezing.

This is the malady that the flu vaccine sets out to prevent. And this is the virus I will be referring to when discussing “the flu”.

Best Practices for Cold and Flu Prevention

While it may seem impossible to avoid colds and flu in the winter, especially with young children who gleefully spread germs, there are some best practices that not only will aid in preventing seasonal illnesses in your home but will also add to your general wellness.

Good Exercise

Fitness helps you to build up immunities and helps flush impurities from your body. It is easy to fall into “couch potato” mode during a long, cold winter, or during later stages of pregnancy.

However, getting the whole family moving is a great way to fend off viruses.

Good Sleep

A body needs rest for optimal health. Unfortunately, many young families are sleep deprived.

Make sure that your school-aged children are getting sufficient sleep, and make sure that you too, are getting the rest that you need.

Our bodies recharge when we sleep and a run-down engine is more prone to break down.

Good Nutrition

A well-fed body is more able to fight off germs. Feed your family the best food that you can afford and avoid as many highly processed foods as you can.

Diets high in vitamins A and C are able to fight off viruses better!

Hand Washing

Get the whole family in the habit of washing their hands often. Avoid antibacterial soaps and use plain soap and warm water.

Rub soapy hands together for 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday).

In our house, we use Ivory bar soap for hand washing. It is inexpensive, fairly natural, and gets the job done.

Disinfect Surfaces Often 

Find a disinfectant system that you trust. I’m personally a bleach person (shame on me!) and use a diluted bleach solution on kitchen counters and with my linens in the laundry. White vinegar can work well also, as well as some other natural cleaners.

The point is to keep your home relatively germ free. I regularly wipe down surfaces, but once we have an illness in the house I become super vigilant.

(That being said, it has been years since anyone in our family of 8 has had more than a sniffle. . .and I’m hardly a diligent housekeeper.)

Air Out Bedrooms

I make it a habit of opening bedroom windows for 5-10 minutes as I make beds in the morning. Even in deep winter (and I live in North Dakota with -40˚ temperatures!) it is beneficial to have the air in your home freshened. Our modern homes are so air-tight at times that they can become like a petri dish for cold germs!

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