’Tis the season for stuffy noses, achy heads and burning throats. Cold and flu germs are making the rounds these winter months, but don’t assume you’re destined to join the lot of sneezers who are stuck in their bed feeling awful.
Here are some tips to make your home a healthy sanctuary for your family so you all have a better chance of emerging from the cough-and-cold season unscathed.
- Make handwashing the first priority for anyone entering your house. Or, keep hand sanitizer near the door so that visitors can conveniently use it after taking off their coat.
- Remember to disinfect doorknobs, telephones, light switches, computer keyboards, remote controls and other hand-held electronics regularly as viruses can be passed from surface to person in addition to person to person.
- Stock your fridge and pantry with immune-boosting foods like garlic, ginger and clear soups. The same goes for upping your intake of vitamins and herbal supplements (such as echinacea) that have been shown to help decrease the occurrence and duration of the common cold. (Just be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any vitamins or natural health products to ensure that they won’t interfere with any of your current medications or medical conditions.)
- Fill your meals with healthy choices. Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating at least one dark-green and orange vegetable daily and opting for vegetables and fruits more often than juice.
- Make sure that you and your family are getting enough shut-eye as a good night’s sleep will help keep up your body’s defences against nasty viruses.
- Consider a natural-source saline solution for your nose to help cleanse excessive mucus accumulation and help reduce the duration of cold symptoms. All-natural sea-water varieties are safe enough to use on children and have been shown to quickly relieve nasal congestion when there are issues with feeding infants or breathing.
- Schedule a flu shot ‒ especially for the children and seniors in your family as well as for those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes.
- Teach your children proper cough/cold etiquette by showing them how to sneeze and cough into the inside of their elbow and not their hand if they don’t have a tissue handy. If using a tissue, they should dispose of it as soon as possible and wash their hands immediately.
- Keep yourself and your family active ‒ even during the winter months ‒ as exercise is key to healthy growth and development. Have children help rake leaves or shovel snow or get them dancing to some favourite tunes with you inside when it’s too chilly to be outdoors.
- If you or your family members are feeling under the weather, stay home and rest rather than pushing to go to school or work. And if the symptoms get worse in a day or two, arrange to see your health-care provider.
Allergic to Your House?
Now that the temperatures are dropping and you’re spending more time indoors, your suddenly stuffier nose may be related to allergens in your house.
Dust mites and dander love carpeting and rugs, so be extra-vigilant about vacuuming. Clutter is also a dust-mite magnet, so aim for house space that is clean and orderly ‒ and keep your recycling bins outside if possible.
Moist bathroom or basement walls are a breeding ground for mould. Wipe them down regularly with a chlorine bleach or borax solution (one cup of bleach or borax per gallon of water). You can also use a non-toxic combination of vinegar and water, which can be left on surfaces to keep the mould at bay. Mould can also make its way into your house through wet leaves on shoes or damp firewood. Keep shoes off inside the house and store firewood in a separate dry place like the garage.