Two weeks before Christmas, I was hit with the nasty flu that seemed to sweep across the U.S. (if my Facebook feed is any indication). Fever, chills, body aches, loss of appetite and a cough that made me cry were the name of the game for 6 days straight.
On Day 3 of my fever, my husband came down with the same symptoms.
Somehow we managed to hold it together to care for our children for five days, but on Day 6, my mom — who had had a flu shot and also a mild version of what we seemed to have — brought us groceries and played with the kids for the morning so that we could both rest. The next day I was feeling much better just as Sean descended into the worst of the illness.
All in all, I used natural remedies (although I gave in and took ibuprofen on Day 3 because the fever was draining me) and Sean used medicine, and the flu followed the same exact course for both of us. I’m no longer convinced that suffering through a fever is always the best course…
However, despite being cooped up in the house with us for the duration of the flu, we managed to keep our girls from getting sick, and my takeaway from that experience is that prevention is the key.
So how’d we do it? I can’t say for sure which of these had the most impact, but here are the things we did to strengthen our kids’ immune systems:
1. No sugar.
None. Zero. Zilch. I’m pretty convinced that banning all sugar from our girls’ diet had the biggest impact on keeping them healthy.
You see, I’d had a bake-a-thon the day before I got sick, taste testing waaaaaay more candy and sugary treats than I should have. And my husband? Got a coke for lunch and then made himself (homemade) chocolate milk in the evening the day before he got sick. Knowing what I know about sugar — that it drops the immune response for between 6-24 hours after consuming even a little bit — I’m sure that we undermined our immune systems and invited the germs to take up residence.
Our girls, on the other hand, only had a tiny bit of sugar (in the bread we used for sandwiches) the entire time we were sick. Thanks to our Break the Sugar Habit Challenge over the summer, eliminating sugar was a fairly easy task and it allowed their immune system to work at full capacity.
2. Fresh air and exercise.
My parents had dropped off the girls’ bikes on the same day I got sick, and little did we know that that would prove to be a Godsend. The girls were so excited to have their bikes (because of our gravel driveway, they only had them at Nona and Pop’s, not here…until now) that they played outside constantly, despite the 35-45 degree temperatures. Not only does exercise also boost the immune system, but the cold, fresh air kills germs, and keeping them out of the house lessened their contact with our germs as well.
3. Vitamin D.
I remember when people began talking about the benefits of vitamin D during the swine flu outbreak of 2009, but it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve become truly convinced of its effectiveness. When sickness hit, we began dosing everybody with super high doses of vitamin D (according to this chart). We actually ran out of the drops for the girls, and Sean was only able to find gummies at the store (which have a pretty high sugar content), so I actually made the girls chew my 5000 IU capsules. The good news is we now have two pill swallowers (our 8 year old and 5 year old) and a stockpile of vitamin D drops!
4. Chicken stock.
There were a couple days when warm chicken stock was the only thing I “ate” all day long because it felt so good going down, and I reluctantly shared my stash with the girls each day as well to help boost their immune systems and make sure they were getting those important vitamins and minerals.
5. Thieves oil.
I’m still learning about essential oils, but after amazing success using Young Living RC oil on our 6-year-old’s coughs, I asked my husband for several oils and a diffuser for Christmas.
When he woke up sick on Day 3, I asked him if I could please open the diffuser and Thieves oil early so that we could begin to disinfect the house. I made a disinfectant spray with 8 ounces of water and 8 drops of Thieves oil, diffused several drops of Thieves in different rooms in the house thoughout the week, rubbed Thieves oil (diluted in olive oil) on our backs and feet and even added a drop of Thieves to my black tea several times to soothe my sore throat and boost my immune system. As a bonus, it smelled amazingly Christmas-y in our home!
I consider it a minor miracle that we were able to keep our children well, and because of that, we were able to resume all of our Christmas celebrating as soon as I started to feel better. And I’m more convinced than ever about the importance of limiting our sugar intake!
What prevention strategies would you add to this list?