Every year when school starts, the runny noses and illnesses begin, too. I used to be a classroom teacher, and I saw it every year.
Are you already fed up with the endless runny noses, coughs, and (worst of all) stomah bugs? Do you feel like you’re just bracing yourself for the next illness to strike your family? Do not despair! There are things you can do to help yourself and your family get sick less often and recover faster.
Those of you who know I’m a huge fan of healthy eating won’t be surprised to hear that some of the most important steps you can take to stay healthy relate to what you eat (and don’t eat). I’ll cover that in my next post.
For now, here are five other crucial strategies for staying healthy during the school year:
1. Take Tonics and herbal remedies.
We are always doing our best to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep, but we also rely on herbal tonics and remedies to keep us healthy. Using herbs for health goes with my philosophy of using food as medicine.
Of the many products out there, my favorite are those made by Urban Moonshine, an organic herbal apothecary based in Vermont. Guido Mase, the clinical herbalist at Urban Moonshine, was the herbal practitioner for our family when we lived in Vermont. Urban Moonshine products are safe for children over 2 years old, as long as the dose is sized-down according to their weight.
This time of year, we like:
- Immune Tonic helps keep our immune systems functioning optimally. It is a powerful preventative; the co-founder of Urban Moonshine gives it to her kids before each school day and swears that it keeps them healthy during those long Vermont winters. Immune Tonic contains some of my favorite roots (licorice, ginger, and astragalus) as well as reishi and maitake mushrooms. Note: Immune Tonic is not suitable for pregnant women.
- Immune Zoom is a powerful, immune-boosting syrup, designed to act fast when there’s an illness lurking. I take it when everyone else around me is sick, or when I feel the first tingle of symptoms. It has echinacea and fresh elderberries with circulatory support from ginger, plus an extra kick from cayenne. Thanks to raw organic honey, it’s also delicious!
- Maia swears by Umcka to stop a cold in its tracks, and you can give this to children ages 6 and older.
2. Stay hydrated.
You’ve heard it a million times: most of your body is made up of water, and it’s essential to your health. Did you know that being well hydrated is also an important part of keeping your immune system functioning optimally?
- Keep a cup of water or a water bottle within your kids’ sight and reach so they can drink up when they’re thirsty.
- Drink water first thing in the morning and hydrate throughout the day so you don’t have to drink as much at night (and have to wake up to pee!).
- Water comes from your food, too—eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, steamed fruits and vegetables, smoothies, soups, etc.
- Diuretics like caffeinated drinks don’t necessarily count as a net negative against your water intake, but if you do consume them, make sure you get some extra water.
- If you order alcohol like beer or wine with a meal, get some extra water on the table, too.
Most importantly, make sure you’re getting safe water by filtering your water.
3. Keep hands clean on the go.
We all know that washing hands with soap and water helps us stay healthy and avoid spreading germs when we’re sick. But what about when you don’t have access to a sink? Most popular hand sanitizers are not only ineffective, but also toxic. Fortunately, we’ve found a couple of hand sanitizing products that are safe and effective for keeping hands clean on the go.
- Jackson Reece Mucky Mitts Hand Sanitizer and CleanWell Hand Sanitizing Spray are easy to stash in your bag and your kids’ backpacks.
- You can tackle grimy surfaces as well as hands with these little packs of CleanWell Natural Hand Sanitizing Wipes
4. Filter your air.
Indoor air is usually more polluted than outdoor air. Indoor air contaminants include floating particulates like pet dander and chemical vapors that off-gas from the materials our homes are built f
rom and the products we bring into them (like furnishings). When we’re sick, pathogens (germs) are added to the mix. Poor indoor air quality matters even more during the cold months when we spend more time inside and open our windows less often.
Because of this, we really like air filters. Good air filters can dramatically improve indoor air quality, and they kill viruses as well as bacteria. For more information, check out our guide to air filters.
As soon as someone in Maia’s home is sick, she cranks up her Austin Air Bedroom machine to high to kill circulating viruses.
5. Move your body (ideally outside).
Movement keeps our bodies healthy, and being active outside has the added benefit of fresh air. As a mom and grandmother, I’ve noticed that kids stay healthier and sleep better when they’ve had a chance to play outside. The same goes for adults, so I encourage you to take your own workouts outside whenever possible.
When Maia and Graham were little, I made sure to get them outside every day—even when it was really cold, and even though I’m not a cold-weather person. Nowadays, this is even more important because many kids don’t get outside much (or at all) during the school day!
If your child is in day care or school, advocate for time outside every day, and send them with the right clothing and gear. Teachers and caregivers often say that they can’t take kids outside because parents don’t dress them appropriately. You’ll want to make sure your children have adequate clothing, right down to their mittens and socks! (These “smart wool” socks are my favorite.)
What are your go-to strategies for staying healthy during the school year? Please share in the comments below.
Here’s to a healthier fall and winter,
P.S. Here are some other resources for either preventing or treating common illnesses:
1) This soothing spray for painful throats.
2) Maia’s thoughts on giving kids fever reducers.
3) A safe chest syrup for those never-ending coughs.
4) Help choosing the right humidifier.
5) This goo for healing raw noses.
6) How to actually ENJOY an illness (don’t roll your eyes!).