Germ Warfare: How To Stay Healthy This Winter

My household has had the dreaded flu for over a week. Yet ironically, dear old mum has managed to stay healthy amidst an endless disposal of sick buckets and snotty tissues. Like most mums, I can’t afford to get sick because seriously, who’s going to look after me if I crash and burn? Therefore, I recently put my germ warfare strategies into action and managed to stay healthy in a house full of sick people. All without the slightest hint of a sniffle!

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Luckily, I trained as a nurse for a year and a lot of the training surrounded germ and disease control – and not just the everyday cold and flu, but more serious infections like golden staph, hepatitis and HIV. Regardless of the type of infection, however, the strategies to reduce the chance of catching anything is very similar. While a lot is basic hygiene, there are some other immune boosters I use around my home. They not only keep me healthy but get sick family members back on their feet faster. That’s a win, win for everyone!

Basic hygiene

Basic hygiene is stuff like hand washing after using the toilet or before cooking. While I’m in the company of sick people I make sure I wash my hands way more often. For example, if someone is bed ridden (like my family has been) I’ll wash my hands after dealing with them every time.

Overkill? Not really. Imagine if I were to throw out dirty tissues from my sons room and then get asked to grab my partner a couple of pain killers and a glass of water? They’re innocent tasks that we do without thinking, but if I go from one to another without washing my hands, I’d be transferring germs from one to another without them having any contact.

Luckily, in a household situation I know they’re sick so I take precautions. Cross contamination happens so frequently in public places and that makes hand washing really important. Then there’s other basics like always covering your mouth when sneezing and coughing. These are simple things we learn but essential in germ warfare, whether it be a common cold or Ebola.

Get some fresh air!

Many people avoid going outside in winter because it’s just so damn cold. However, a bit of fresh air is really good for you. So on days when the suns out, get outside when you can. So many of us rely on air-conditioning units to stay warm in places like offices, malls and our homes, yet these systems are excellent breading grounds for bacteria. Getting outside is a great way to boost your immune system and provide a bit of vitamin D if you’re lucky.

Using steam to clear your airways

You don’t need a vaporiser to be able to use steam to clear your airways – there are some excellent alternatives. Bathrooms offer a room full of steam, which is great if you start to feel congested. Another option is a bucket of hot water covered with a towel. I have wood heating and place a large saucepan of water on top of the unit with either with a drop of eucalyptus or a dash of chest rub in it. You can also do this with a saucepan on the stove.

Not only does this make the house smell great but eucalyptus is an awesome disinfectant. When you use it to vaporise the air, it’s like pumping clean air into your home which not only prevents illness but also helps heal the sick. It’s also a very strong and a natural cleaner; so when wiping over benches add a drop of eucalyptus to your cloth and it will prevent germs from spreading.

Homemade chicken soup

No, this isn’t an old wives tale! Apparently there has been significant medical evidence on the benefits of homemade chicken soup. For one, it can thin mucus and make it easy to expel. It’s also packed with easy to digest nutrition such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and sulfur. Furthermore, it’s good for your gut and great for inflammation. So why specifically homemade and not bought broth varieties? Well homemade is cooked slower and therefore the chicken can release more healing properties.

Final tip

The last thing to remember is that when you do feel something itching to strike, STAY HOME! Chances are if you do head out to work, study or socialise, you’ll ultimately get sick. That twinge we usually feel before we get ill is the immune system giving us a warning. It’s trying to say that it’s under pressure and fighting some bug, so take extra precautions.

If you learn to listen to your body you’ll instinctively know the signs. Either be very vigilant if you really need to go out, or stay home and give your immune system the best possible chance to fight it.  This will not only reduce any time off in the immediate future, but it will also lessen the chances of you passing your germs along to someone else. Unfortunately, it’s because sick people go out in public that we have a cold and flu season in the first place.

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July 13, 2015

Can Probiotics Stop Your Child From Getting Sick?

Are probiotics a health cure or a pharmaceutical con? And can they prevent kids from getting sick this cold and flu season? These are the questions I found myself asking this week after an overzealous GP (not my regular) shoved a wad of probiotic information my way after I took my one-year-old baby to see him after she’d contracted the latest vicious daycare bug from her two-year-old sister.

“Why aren’t your children on probiotics?” he lectured, all patronising condescension. “I’ve just got back from an international medical conference and probiotics are the way of the future”. Why indeed, I thought? Silly me, I assumed feeding my kids healthy food – plenty of fresh fruit and veg – was enough.

Probiotics are beneficial forms of gut bacteria which are said to help stimulate the natural digestive juices and enzymes which keep our digestive organs functioning well. In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, you can also eat probiotic foods which are a host to these live bacterium, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and more. Said GP was quick to point out he received no kickbacks for plugging, his preferred probiotic supplier, and helpfully printed off key health benefits of the The Life Space Probiotic For Baby, including that it: promotes the healthy development of a baby’s immune system; protects against viral illness such as rota virus; promotes healthy bowel movements and alleviates constipation; provides symptomatic relief of baby colic; and reduces the risk of allergies such as eczema and hayfever by up to 44 per cent.

Still sceptical, I spoke to leading Brisbane naturopath Alisha Lynch, who is another passionate advocate of probiotics. With two young kids herself, Ms Lynch knows full well the horror of the seemingly neverending, wide range of debilitating daycare bugs which travel through the whole family. She talks a lot about gut health increasing immunity at her website:

A naturopath for 13 years, Ms Lynch, 36, also believes probiotics are the bomb. “Gut health is so important,” she says. “Toddlers have to catch bugs to build up their immunity, but you can decrease the severity and the frequency of infections by loading them up with probiotics.”

And given it’s a rare toddler indeed who will willingly eat probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, the naturopath said a daily dose of probiotics to toddlers in powder form was the easiest method. You can then mix it into their drinks, smoothies, yogurt and cereals. “It’s vital you give probiotics daily – not just when they’re sick or during winter,” Ms Lynch says. “You are building up good bacteria of their gut and helping downgrade inflammation of the gut lining.

“It’s so stressful when your little ones are sick, but they have to get sick so the body learns how to fight off illness.” And fun fact: 80 per cent of our neurotransmitters are in the gut lining, Ms Lynch says, so stress and moods can greatly impact our gut health.

“You know the saying ‘I’ve got butterflies in my tummy’? That’s when you literally feel sick with stress,” she says. Hmm, I think I’d better investigate probiotics for my good health, too.

Image via Flickr

By Nicole Carrington-Sima

July 10, 2014