It is that time of year again when the children start heading back to school. We start comparatively early around my area and compared to some of my friends’ children’s school year, we are already nearly a month complete on classes before anyone else crosses the threshold of the school building. There are positives in that we get out a little earlier in the spring than others and they have a “Fall break” built into the schedule that I think works nicely to keep everyone motivated to plow through the semester.
The one thing I hate about the start of a new school ear is the inevitable cold my children seem to bring home every year. It has gotten a little better as my kids have gotten older, but we usually find ourselves wiping our noses and sniffling about 2 weeks after the start of the school year. It’s the perfect time to incubate a nice rhino virus.
During the past few years, I have developed a list of helpful tips to help prevent the spread of those nasty cold germs and keep your family healthy through the end of the holiday season.
Hand washing is the most important way to keep disease away.
We do it in the hospital between each contact we have with patients. We should do it in our homes as well. Having your children march straight to the bathroom for a good hand washing when they get home from school is an excellent way to keep runny nose germs out of your house. If you have the luxury of picking them up in school, keep a container of hand sanitizer in your car or purse to hit those germy hands as soon as they get into the car.
You don’t need antibacterial soap to do the job properly. Any slippery soap will do and it is the slipperiness of the soap we are looking for to help those germs slide off your hands and down the drain where they will eventually die because they are no longer in contact with your warm body.
Disinfect communal surfaces every day
This is a great kid chore! Stock some cleaning wipes or bleach spray and do a quick once over in your house after everyone has left for the day. You can even get those nitrile exam gloves in small sizes that work well for kids. Most people around my hospital use the medium sized gloves. Areas to concentrate on are faucet handles, bedroom and exit doorknobs, and the tv. remote or gaming controllers. Any surface you and your family members frequently handle is a target for a good cleaning
Don’t forget to disinfect the shopping cart with those free wipes. Stores don’t want their employees to get sick and they want their customers to stay healthy enough to feel like shopping. Take advantage of this excellent business practice. Use two or three wipes at once while you are at it just to get the cart handle (and sides) nice and wet. If you are not drenching the handle, you’re not killing anything, honey!
Limit sugar intake
Have you ever noticed how the cold and flu viruses start to gain significant footholds right around Halloween? This is our first major “sugar” holiday of the Fall and I would suspect that the pre-gaming consumption of the Halloween candy stash that many of us (myself included) do has a significantly negative impact on our immune system’s ability to fight off those nasty viruses. Here is a peer-reviewed study for your perusal if you are interested in evidence-based stuff.
100 grams of sugar in various forms, including the following:
- sucrose (table sugar),
- fructose (fruit sugar and the famous high-fructose corn syrup),
- honey (yes, my paleo-friends…eating a plate full of honey-sweetened paleo cookies will still depress your immune system although your otherwise healthy diet may significantly reduce your overall susceptibility to illness),
- orange juice
caused a decrease in the body’s functionality of a certain type of white blood cell called a neutrophil. It didn’t decrease their number but rather it appeared to, more or less, paralyze them in their ability to “eat up” staph bacteria. Another study determined sugar had a negative effect on Lymphocytes’ ability to kill enemy microbial invaders. The Lymphocyte is the type of immune cell that works in killing cold and flu viruses as they attack your body.
Kill those microbes with zinc
I have a couple of pharmacist friends who would take opposite sides on this but I learned in microbiology that heavy metals inhibit growth of both viruses and bacteria. Zinc appears to have an inhibiting effect on the ability of some viruses to replicate. There are a variety of zinc-containing cold remedies on the market. I have personally found Zicam and Cold-eez to be effective. I don’t take them as recommended, however, I split up the lozenges and eat the pieces over the recommended dosing time-frames for each product. For example, I might have half a Zicam lozenge every hour and a half if my children are having cold symptoms and my throat is starting to feel a little bit thick. Now, don’t confuse zinc tablets you swallow with the cold-treating type of zinc. We are looking for something that has an inhibiting effect on contact. You can take zinc pills but they will have a more indirect effect on your body and may not necessarily help you with the cold you are already in the process of catching.
Do you have any cold and flu fighting tips you would like to share?
If so, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you. If you are looking for an easy, versatile protein-packed, sugar-free dinner idea, check out this simple dinner recipe.
P.S. For those of you who just can’t get enough “sciencey” stuff about viruses, check out this page on cold viruses. The author(s) of this blog really go into awesome detail.
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Sanchez, A. Reeser, J. L., Lau, H. S., Yahiku, P. Y., Willard, R. E., McMillan, P. J., Cho, S. Y., Magie, A. R., Register, U. D. (1983). Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26(11), 1180-1184.
Vose, B. M., Harding, M., White, W., Moore, M., & Gallagher, J. (1983). Effect of simple sugars on natural killing: evidence against the involvement of a lectin like mechanism in target recognition. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 51(3), 517–524.
University of Adelaide. (2013, November 11). How zinc starves lethal bacteria to stop infection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131111091136.htm