30+ Ways to Outsmart the Flu
Amp up your kid's immunity -- and soothe any sniffles that get past your guard
Avoid Wardrobe Malfunctions
From chilly bus stops to stuffy classrooms to hot gym classes: Most kids could use a series of costume changes throughout the day. Temperature fluctuations alone won't make him sick, but overheating can lead to dehydration, leaving him run-down and more vulnerable to a bug lurking in another kid's sneeze or on that shared math book. Layers that can be easily snapped on or zipped off with confidence will keep kids comfortable -- and looking cool.
Dish Up Vitamin D
Making sure your kid is getting enough vitamin D should be another one of your first lines of defense because it helps activate immune cells. Trouble is, most kids aren't these days because the main source of D is sunlight. Between slathering on sunblock in warm weather and spending a lot of time indoors during the winter, seven out of ten children in the U.S. have low levels of vitamin D, according to a study done by Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. Good food sources of vitamin D include fortified milk and juices, cheese, eggs, and salmon. Still, it's tough to get the recommended 400 international units (IU) daily. Unless your child is a big milk drinker -- to help you do the math, one cup of milk has about 100 IU of vitamin D -- you should talk to your pediatrician about a supplement; the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends one up until age 18.
Just For Baby
Vitamin D is the one thing breast milk unfortunately doesn't have enough of, so if that's what your baby's drinking exclusively, ask your doctor for a 400-IU supplement. Infants who are consuming at least 32 ounces of formula daily are covered, but once solids are added to their diet, they're likely to need a supplement, too.
Power Up the Probiotics
Sign us up! A recent study showed that kids who were given twice-daily probiotic supplements for six months experienced fewer fevers, coughs, and runny noses during the cold and flu season than children who were not. But what the heck are probiotics? Good germs that restore balance to the digestive system, thereby boosting immunity. You can find them in: foods Stonyfield Farms and Dannon make yogurt and yogurt drinks with probiotics. Stir in a spoonful of honey (after age 1) -- it's also believed to trigger immune function. Whole grains and bananas contain prebiotics, a type of fiber that fosters the natural growth of probiotics. supplements Ask your pediatrician about a supplement like Florastor Kids or Culturelle for Kids -- both can be mixed into juice or soft foods. Probiotic supplements may also be used to treat diarrhea when it's a side effect of antibiotics.
Kids put their fingers in everything from their friends' cupcake frosting to their own noses, and they may not always have the time -- or the inclination -- to wash their hands during the busy school day. Pack travel-size, alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel or wipes in your child's lunch box, backpack, and gym bag. And check the labels: Studies show that hand sanitizers should have a concentration of at least 60 percent alcohol or they won't work.