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Beat the Sneezin' Season Naturally

  [ 708 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • January 2, 2006

NEW YORK, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Taking a stand against cold and flu season for you and your family is easier than you think. Woodson Merrell, MD, explains how to break the sickness cycle by taking protective measures and boosting immunity. Dr. Merrell attacks the problem with an integrative medical tool kit. "I'm a pragmatist," he explains, "which is why I incorporate the best of Western scientific medicine and the best of complementary therapies. Even if you get a flu shot, you're still at risk for colds and flu. However, everyone can add a few smart preventive measures to their routine and strengthen their natural immunity." Here are Dr. Merrell's tips and tricks for staying healthy through cold and flu season: 1. We all know the importance of hand washing in reducing the transmission of cold and flu germs. But did you know that most children do not wash their hands long enough to have a significant impact? Teach your children to recite a nursery rhyme while lathering their hands, rinsing at the completion of the poem. This technique can triple or quadruple the amount of time their hands are exposed to soap and friction -- the two methods that remove the most germs from the skin. 2. When serving snacks, beware the communal snack bowl. Children (who may or may not have washed their hands first) like to touch, and may pick up three cookies before making a final selection. Better to use separate bowls, or single serving sizes. 3. Wait wisely. During peak outbreaks of viral illnesses, you might want to reconsider turning the little one loose in a children's waiting area. These areas have tempting child-sized tables and chairs, brightly colored toys and books, which are used by many children with varying degrees of hygiene in the course of a day. 4. If you or your child is ill, be a hero and stay home. Not only is this the most effective way to protect others from your illness, you are more likely to rest and drink fluids in an unstructured home environment vs. the more rigid schedules of school and workplace. Consider canceling play dates with children who are coming down with colds. 5. After recovering from a cold or flu, treat yourself to a new toothbrush. Your old brush might still be "sick." 6. Wash children's scarves and mittens frequently and in hot water. Little hands in mittens wipe noses, play with outdoor toys and wrestle with playmates while scarves pick up germs from the mouth. 7. Try tea. Tea contains antioxidants and polyphenols that can boost the immune system. Substituting iced tea (decaffeinated for young ones) for soft drinks is a healthy choice anytime, but especially during cold and flu season. Choose unsweetened or lightly sweetened, which contain far less sugar than soft drinks. 8. Nutritionists tell us, and evidence has proven, the many health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, but we know how picky children can be. Eat six daily servings of vitamin-rich dark leafy greens, yellow-orange, and red fruits and vegetables (organic is best). Use vegetables (broccoli) and fruits high in Vitamin C -- experiment with banana, papaya or strawberry smoothies that young taste buds will love. 9. Some herbals work: Despite a recent report questioning the effectiveness of echinacea, there is evidence that some echinacea preparations actually work. Esberitox is a tasty, chewable product that combines two types of echinacea with the herbs baptisia and thuja, and has been clinically proven to reduce the duration and severity of colds by 50 percent. "If I only had one Western remedy to recommend during cold and flu season, I would choose Esberitox," comments Dr. Merrell. "This herbal formula is the only one that my own children will take without a fuss because it tastes good -- they even ask for it." 10. For older kids with sore throats, gargle with disinfectant solutions, such as Listerine, tea tree oil or diluted hydrogen peroxide (the latter is not safe for young children who may swallow it). 11. Touching your eyes when inserting and removing contacts is another route for viruses to enter the body. During cold and flu season wear your glasses instead of contact lenses. 12. How sweet it isn't: Avoid excessive amounts of sugar during cold and flu season as sugar can weaken your immune system. 13. Try some mushrooms: Many species of mushroom naturally contain substances that boost the immune system -- especially maitake, reishi, and shitake -- and are easy to add to your menu. 14. Garlic is good: Raw garlic has more potent immune activity than cooked, but isn't very pleasant to eat on its own. One great trick is to crush or chop a few cloves of garlic and add them to your prepared salad dressing. Shake well before pouring so that a little garlic is contained in every serving. 15. Ease up on coffee, power-up on sleep. A caffeine buzz can rob you of precious sleep, your body's strongest repair mechanism. Avoid late nights during flu season and take extra rest if you're in healing mode. The maxim "early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" is never more important than during cold/flu season. 16. Stress and anxiety boost your body's adrenal hormone level of cortisol, which can depress the immune system. In case of a stressful event -- new job, relocation, divorce, etc. -- take care. Get a good night's sleep, eat a healthy diet, allow your friends and family to pamper you, or at least, pamper yourself, and try to engage in pleasurable activities. Yoga, music, or petting a dog or cat can reduce stress in your life. Find what works for you. 17. For cold and flu prevention and treatment, consult integrative practitioners -- doctors who have additional experience with mind-body practices, acupuncture, nutrition and dietary supplements, homeopathy, etc. They may have other options that may be right for you and your family. You may want to schedule a wellness visit before cold and flu season hits to develop a strong health plan for your family. Even if the headlines predict heavy casualties during cold and flu season, you don't have to be one of them. If you take proper care, you can dodge getting sick altogether. But if you do get the sniffles, you can use these tips to help get better ahead of schedule. SOURCE Woodson Merrell, MD

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