Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Fighting the Sick Season, get your dukes up!
I have a two year old. I teach exercise to loads of moms, students, doctors, and every type of person you can imagine. My husband works in an office. There is NO WAY to avoid whatever the heck may be "going around" (doesn't hearing that make you want to slap someone) at any given point during "sick season"....which by my Facebook math, anytime I've seen someone describe their symptoms in a status update and had someone comment that whatever it was is "going around", the "sick season" is pretty much 300-350 days a year long.
Pre-child, we would usually get sick, like legit sick, once a year, maybe twice (like the year we both got the swine flu, that was rad.) Now with the little guy around touching everything he can in public places and then immediately shoving a hand in his, my or daddy's mouth our risk factor is a little beyond constant hand washing and eating an obscene amount of garlic. However, with the garlic, hand-washing and other tips-n-tricks I use, even with the toddler on the scene we keep the sick days to a minimum and when something does strike we are usually well in a fraction of the time it takes others we know who are dealing with the same yuckiness to bounce back....did you hear? It's really going around right now......
1. Keep your hands clean, and OFF YOUR FACE. As mentioned above this can be out of your control at times, but as much as humanly possible, wash your hands after touching stuff that could be germy (the grocery cart, the gas pump, every time you use the restroom) I know this may seem crazy obvious, but if you really pay attention and work to keep your hands clean, it really will help you be more likely to miss out on whatever is....well, you know, out there. The second part of this may take a little more awareness & effort. DON'T TOUCH YOUR FACE. Seriously. Hair on your lip? Nose itch? Eyelash in your eye? Get a tissue. Get somewhere where you can scrub up before poking at your mouth, nose or eyes and I promise you will exponentially increase your ability to avoid the nasties. It's a great skill to try to teach the kiddies as early as possible too. My son is a little over 2 years old and 75% (and growing) of the time he will go get a tissue to wipe a runny nose vs using his hand.
We use the hand sanitizer spray pictured above and LOVE it- kid safe too, I use it on Logan after the park, the market, the aquarium etc.
Here is a helpful link if you are interested in making your own Homemade Hand Sanitizer
2. Humidifier- this is one every mommy is familiar with. A COOL MIST HUMIDIFIER. I was like, wtf is that?!? I remembered us having a steam humidifier when I was a kid, but couldn't imagine what "cool mist" even meant, or further, how the heck it would help anything, EVER. We did not get one prior to Logan's arrival- but if you are expecting, or have a newborn and are like me, don't wait till that first cold hits- go get one as a staple right away. Everyone seems to be a fan of the Crane (pictured above), but we went with a Safety First because it was on sale at target and we were still super skeptical as to what this whole thing was all about.
I have been turned into a believer. Basically, I believe, the idea is that when you are congested- your body is producing an excess of mucous...if you are in a dry environment your body will be cued to produce MORE moisture (mucous, oils in your skin, etc.) to balance that out. Use of the humidifier during naps and overnight (and really any time there's excessive dryness due to weather, heater or a/c running etc) will help maintain the balance and keep mucous production down. When the Santa Ana winds kicked up a few weeks ago, I ran Logan's humidifier during naps and overnight, even though he was totally healthy just for comfort sake, and out of jealousy ordered one for our room at that point, and was SO happy I did- it makes my skin happy!
Humidifier cleaning & care note: for this to be a helpful tool in your home, you MUST keep it properly cleaned and when not in use- completely dry & well stored. When you are using it, it helps to use filtered water, not tap water- I have no idea why, but from experience, this is true. EVERY day, in the morning, un plug it and empty all the water, rinse with a 1 part vinegar 1 part water mixture, rinse well (till you can't smell the vinegar) and let dry as much as possible before you need to use it next. If for some reason it gets funky- there's some pink mold or other spore growth (awesome, right?) use straight vinegar and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of epsom salt in the tank part- cover any openings best you can with your hands and shake the bajeezus out of it- this should clear up any build up- use vinegar on q-tips to clean any funkiness that grows in the base part that can not be filled and shake-a-shake-a'd. All humidifiers are built a little different so it depends on how yours is put together.
3. Essential oils- I started using oils before Logan was born, while I was pregnant and couldn't take prescription or over the counter medication when I got a sinus infection, allergies or other ailments and they became a necessary life saver. I've really started to learn more and use them regularly....and use "medicine" lots less. Since I had my son, taking even two ibprofen makes my stomach hurt and I feel disgusting. It was super helpful to have a friend that is a DoTerra rep, that's how I found the two blends (Breathe and OnGuard) that are so very essential (unintentional oil pun) to our getting well and staying well here.
I use a variety of oil brands to fit my needs, and budget- but so far my experience with the DoTerra oils is that they are the highest quality and the two blends I'm now completely addicted to are just not available anywhere else. I know if you use them you agree, it's true fact, I got hooked FAST and have not been with out the "Breathe" or "OnGuard" blends in my house since I first tried them.
If you want to start using oils, you will probably want to get a diffuser- initially I was adding the oils to some water in a pot on the stove and just keeping it on super low- it smelled awesome, but then I learned that heat affects the composition of the oil, and it's effectiveness. Diffusers can be EXPENSIVE. Since I am an oil addict and use them sick, well, rain, shine, etc- I have several of THESE (spa vapor) diffusers, I'm saving up to invest in a really good one soon though, it will totally be worth it.
Another thing you may want to get are empty gel caps my first attempt at ingesting oregano oil was INTENSE. That shit burns! SERIOUSLY. These are great for blending a few drops of various oils or of one powerful oil like oregano that you would mix with a carrier oil like olive or coconut. (also great if you are on a budget, like me, and would loooove to order those OnGuard softgels AND the oil blend but have to pick one...makes it easier)
Here are the get well/stay well oils I use all the time and a bit of info about them:
OnGuard is a blend that combines some FIERCE stay-well, go-away-cold essential oils, I diffuse this pretty much all the time. I love the way it smells and feel like I've got soliders garuding the wellness fortress when it's in the air over here. (dramatic much?) I also use the OnGuard cleaning concentrate, see #8, and just ordered the softgels.
Breathe blend- this is how I found the DoTerra product line in the first place. My friend posted about her baby daughter being congested and this really helping out....then about a week later, Logan got his first cold and I was a MESS. I emailed her and ordered the Breathe blend to try for myself. It seemed expensive at the time. I was totally skeptical, and worried that I had just spent WAYYYY too much money on a teeeensy bottle of something that could do NOTHING. Then Logan caught his second cold not too long after I had the blend at home and I mixed it with some coconut oil, rubbed it on his little feet before both naps and at bedtime and was pretty shocked at how much quicker his congestion vanished than it had the first time. I also used it on myself for a horrible sinus infection not too long after that and can vouch for it's effectiveness first hand. I diffuse it in his room & in the kitchen whenever anyone here is congested.
Oregano: (a good one for the grown-ups) I recently found a blog post via that talked about the amazing properties of oregano oil. It has been found to be an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial powerhouse that is awesome at helping you get well and stay well. When I say powerful, this oil is POWERFUL. It's not oregano like in your pasta sauce, this is super strong Mediterranean legit oregano oil- you will want to dilute it. Use olive or coconut oil w a 1 to 1 ratio- I suggest encapsulating this one. I know several mamas that use this to treat ear infections in their little ones, garlic oil too- I have not tried that yet, but if we get an ear infection over here, I will. I have also read it's best to limit use to 5-7 days when you feel something coming on or are actually sick. Not a problem for me, this one makes my burps all spicy, bleh. I feel like it makes a huge difference when I'm fighting something nasty though, so it's worth the oregano burps. It's too intense for the liver to take all the time. Also DO NOT take oregano if you are (or may be) pregnant.
Tea Tree: My cleaning oil. This is a key ingredient in OnGuard for obvious reasons, I ordered a big bottle of this from amazon because I use it in my dusting spray, floor wash, insect repellent and lots of other household fun stuff. It a good one to have on hand as a regular use oil. I also like to diffuse it with lemon, mandarin and ginger when we are getting over a sickness.
Eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender & peppermint: This was my own version of the Breathe blend before I discovered it. I also use these oils to make THESE homemade "vapor rub" shower disks- these saved my life during a sinus infection when I was pregnant!! ( I follow her recipe, plus suggestions- read comments/notes, but I add a few drops of peppermint (start small, it's potent).
Lavender: This is probably the oil I have been using the very longest...for it's relaxing, stress relief properties, super yummy smell and overall likability factor. When there is illness about, that's when you need rest and stress relief most of all. I diffuse this- sometimes combined with other oils, sometimes on it's own- and also use it topically as a foot rub or on my temples (with a bit of peppermint) for headaches- mixed with coconut oil.
Coconut oil: We pretty much always have this in the house, Nate uses it to keep his beard manageable! I also use this as a base for all the topical applications discussed above.
If you do a little research, you'll see this is only the teenist fraction of all the essential oils out there and that they all have many, many uses, there are also lots of different brands, retailers and price points. I buy all of mine from DoTerra (website), Amazon & Whole Foods.....and, if you are like me, knowing this is just the tip of the iceburg will be appealing, addictive and fun trying them, learning about them and enjoying the many benefits they each deliver!
I will be writing a separate post about my other most used oil, Tamanu, it's in the photo above, but it's not really a "sick" oil, though it is a powerful healer, so I'll share more about that later.....
4. Apple Cider Vinegar- let's be straight here, this stuff tastes AWFUL (in my opinion), but like a gagilion years of many generations swearing by it are right, it is kind of a wonder-liquid.
You can drink it regularly as a preventative, or at the first sign of a bug & use it to help flush your system until you are well as can be! One of the benefits of apple cider vinegar is that it breaks up mucous and helps to clear the lymphnodes- making it fabulous for allergies, sinus issues, flu, colds, sore throats, headaches and general congestion (see more HERE)
My regimen: (once a day when well, 2-4x a day when under the weather)
I add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a mug of hot water and drizzle in a tiny bit of honey. Step the honey up a bit if you have a cough or allergies, it will help, more below. Squeeze some lemon or orange in there too and you'll really cut down on the "tastes awful" bit- making this "tea" makes it waaaaaaay more bearable. Really.
For the toddler, only when sick 1x/day:
I put 1/2 a teaspoon in about 6oz of juice for Logan. Most of the time, any juice he gets is 1/2 juice 1/2 water- but when I do the apple cider vinegar I do all juice and he has yet to complain or notice the vinegar.
5. Honey- As noted above honey is GREAT for coughs and also can be a major helper with allergies. Be sure not to give honey to babies, check with your pediatrician- if I remember correctly they need to be over a year old, possibly closer to 18 months. Also, check with your OB if you are pregnant or nursing- but I definitely had honey pregnant and nursing and was fine.
1 Teaspoon a few times a day. Will soothe the throat and help break up the cough. For allergies, LOCAL honey from your farmers market and local bees will be the best bet.
Sore throat remedy- this is sooooooooo amazing, again- only for peeps old enough for honey......get a jar (I save jam, pickle and mason jars for fun projects like this) use a slicer to slice up 2-3 lemons, grate a big piece of peeled fresh ginger or 2, pour in enough honey to cover all that jazz & refrigerate. Keep this in your fridge all the time! When your throat hurts - scoop 1-2 teaspoons into a cup of hot water and enjoy- magical. Here area few links to the "recipe":
Queen of Wishful Shrinking
6. Food/Drink: This is a MAJOR factor in staying well and really cutting down the time an ailment will linger: most important players: Citrus & Garlic. There is no such thing as too much, go yard on these two. Consume citrus in whole form, buy oranges, cuties, tangerines, lemons, limes- you don't want to start me on packaged orange juice. I'm not a fan.
I can not emphasize this enough- eat and drink WELL to be well and stay well.
I really feel that this is a huge part of why we don't get sick often, and when we do, we get well FAST. I think the amount of fruit, veggies and garlic we consume over here would rank in the neighborhood of "staggering". Logan eats a whole mango every day on his own (he has some at each meal...I give it to him like dessert- it's his favorite- and a super food PACKED with vitamin C).
At the first sign of sickness do your very best to focus on whole foods, and minimize your intake of anything processed. This will free up loads of energy that would be wasted breaking down refined sugar, science and processed whatnot to focus on healing you and getting you back in the game!
If you feel a little tired, a little stuffy, just not yourself, get your buns to the market while you still have the energy to do it and stock up on ORANGES, MANGO (get frozen if the fresh is not in season), PINEAPPLE (same as the mango, get frozen if need be), kale or spinach (something dark green and leafy)- or just get some green juice if you are short on energy, sweet potato (super easy to make and filling) and GARLIC- 2 heads at least. (we go through a head of garlic a day, minimum, when fighting something off.
On the first & second day of a bug we do a head of garlic- top chopped off- drizzled in olive oil- in the toaster oven on 350 for 30 minutes or until soft, spreadable and golden. Eat it on toast. Nate and I usually split the head of garlic (now we share w Logan too) and do this 1-3 days in a row. You may be a little stanky, but stanky beats sicky any day!
I usually get a super food juice blend too- try wholefoods or another small local market, if possible a place that cold presses the juice (if you go to a juice place, tell them about your symptoms and sensitivities and ask what they suggest and if you should drink the whole thing or half today half tomorrow).
Wondering wtf to do with the spinach or kale- especially when all you really feel like doing is laying face down on the nearest soft surface and doing NOTHING, blend it- throw it in the blender with coconut water, mango and pineapple- super smoothie- make a big batch and freeze some of it into popcicles! Or just buy green juice and drink it or freeze it into green pops- either way get those good green nutrients in the mix!
I've also found that a dish called Chicken Tammen Miso from a ramen place I love and good old Matzo ball soup both have sensational healing properties I will never be able to explain and I always eat one or both of those soup/meals when I'm not at my best. If you can't make homemade, find a friend, restaurant or trusted source- do not buckle and make a condensed can-soup, you'll be doing more harm than good.
Here is my EASY chicken noodle soup recipe :)
With any illness, or really even when you're totally well, stay hydrated.
For a stomach virus, the food tips here aren't super helpful- keep it plain, simple and anything that can be held down wins, but above all, if barf and bad digestive issues are involved,
Hydration is KEY.
My son won't touch pedialyte and I've tasted it so I don't blame him. You can buy electrolyte infused water at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and I'm sure other sources as a much healthier alternative, or try COCONUT WATER!........ I mean 2/3 of what is in pedialyte seems counter-productive if you ask me. Last time I checked, whatever makes is orange or purple is not going to help anyone feel better asap.
7. Rest....I know what you're thinking...."ain't nobody got time for that!" but it is imperative. Even if this means going to bed early, taking any break you can during the day and just being still, sleeping as late as possible- hoard rest. This is a time when (in my book) it's aok to fork over that ipad to your toddler so the both of you can just be STILL for 30 minutes, or (gasp!) turn on the TV or a video. The value of the rest far outweighs any determent of "screen time".
8. Saline spray, vapor rub, nose suckers & vitamins- My husband and I both use saline spray for congestion and find that it works well, I've also used THIS nose spray when my sinuses make me feel like there is an elephant sitting on my face. I have tried the saline with Logan and he is NOT a fan. I will keep trying though, because it does wonders to flush out congestion and much like the humidifier help stop your body from coming up with any more mucous when you are already on overload. I have always been a fan of vapor rub. Before discovering the BREATHE oil blend, I would use the baby vapor rub on us and the kiddo at night. Especially when a cough is involved in the sickness- start with a good sit (try 10 minutes if the kid is willing) in a super steamy bathroom, followed by a warm/luke-warm bath. Use the nose sucker during the bath and immediately following to get out any congestion the steam loosens up. I know people swear by the NoseFrida, I am sure it's awesome but our post-natal nurse gave us 3 of those blue suckers at the hospital when Logan was born and I like them just fine, they work really well too. After the steam, bath, nose-sucking...commence bedtime routine, with the addition of SLATHERING your kiddo's feet and chest with age appropriate salve (4mo-2yr baby rub, 2y+ regular rub, and any time BREATHE blend (mixed with coconut oil, see note on oil usage above).
When we were trying to get pregnant, and during my 40 weeks carrying Logan (a total of about 2 1/2 years combined) I took a daily prenatal vitamin, and felt like I got sick WAY less than ever before. I have continued to take it daily because I feel like it helps keep my system strong and makes my hair & nails look better, bonus! Do your research on vitamins though, be very cautious and find something that is gentle on your system, all natural, organically sourced and free of anything bizarre or GMO ridden!
Last but not least- clean the space around you. This one is particularly tough when you have zero energy and a little one or several little ones all over the place, but it really helps. The first day of a sickness I strip down all the sheets and towels and wash them, replacing them all with clean ones...and (try not to punch my face off my face) but do this at least 3rd day through out the illness and for about a week after (This is normally something I do just once a week). If you have kiddos- change their bedding daily- we sweat out all kinds of junk when we are sick and it's so nice to not sleep on junk crust the following night- this takes an extra effort when the tank is already on empty, but I promise it is worth it- if you can find a way to shower in the morning AND at night before bed, bonus points for that- especially to aid with congestion, a steam shower is REALLY helpful in moving things along.
Every night, wipe down as many surfaces as possible daily with a disinfectant cleaner. Yes, your son may sneeze and drool all over them again the next day, but this really will help stop the spread and get you well faster. I clean pretty much everything in my house with a 1 part vinegar/1 part water mixture.
If it's a stomach bug, and the carpet gets roughed up- sprinkle baking soda over the stain, then pour vinegar over & scrub, let dry completely and vacuum.
Keep on hand all the time- garlic, oils, cider vinegar, honey, saline spray, vapor rub, nose suckers (if you have babies or toddlers), regular vinegar, humidifier, diffuser.
At first sign of a bug invasion- stock up on the following: Fruit (especially high vitamin C fruits) Oranges, cuties, lemons, mangoes, spinach or kale to juice or make smoothies with (or to make popsicles w), anything that always helps YOU the way the Matzo ball soup or tammen miso ramen help me, JUICE- try to find the most nautral option possible- if you have a place that cold presses near you- that's your best bet.
This is such a giant, long, burley post....I think the best way to get the tips out there is to post this as is, but to make it more digestible I will break the tips into their own posts and put them up separately with links back to this beast for whenever you need it. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE comment on this post with your own tips, ideas, recipes and QUESTIONS!!!! I tried to make this all-inclusive and cohesive, but I'm a mother of a toddler who's on day 2 of a cold (thought I should get this posted ASAP!) so if anything is unclear, half-explained or needs more detail, let me know and I will get right back to you!
Also, natural remedies are great, and often the best preventatives- but especially as a mom, trust your gut, know your illnesses and when a fever gets high, or the croup gets barky or you feel your little one is in danger in any way- get help & be there for them in the most responsible, important way possible. Hopefully you are as lucky as I am to have a pediatrician who you really feel on the same page with and can trust not to medicate your child when it's not absolutely necessary, if that's what you are going for.
Other helpful stuff:
6 natural ways to fight the flu by O'mamas
Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar
Lemon Socks for Fever
Rice water for stomach virus