Protecting Your Immune System During Cold and Flu Season
It’s cold and flu season, and your baby is more susceptible than anyone. New to the world, infants have not yet built up immunity to many diseases, and probably lack some important immunizations as well. While we cannot prevent every sickness that may affect our little ones, there are steps that can be taken to decrease the chances of infection in both you and your children, according to WebMD.
Step 1: Immunizations
The first step to avoid sickness in your baby is to get the proper immunizations as soon as possible. “The flu vaccine prevents a viral infection that hospitalizes 200,000 people in this country every year and kills 36,000,” states Isadore Rosenfield, MD, Rossi Professor of Clinical Medicine at the NYU Weill Cornell Medical Center.
The Center for Disease Control states that everyone who is at least six months old should be vaccinated for a flu shot. If your baby is younger than six months, try to make sure that those who are around your baby most have been vaccinated. Also, make sure that any older children are up-to-date on their vaccines and boosters, to ensure that they are not spreading anything to the baby.
Step 2: Wash Your Hands
Obviously, if other people are sick, we should try to stay away from them. But often times we are not aware that the people around us are sick or carrying a virus. Because of this, it is important to be diligent about washing hands. Keep some hand sanitizer at your desk to stay sanitary throughout the day. Wash your hands whenever you get home after a trip to the store or a meeting.
You should also disinfect areas that you come into contact with the most, such as your desk, phone, or steering wheel, and encourage your children to do the same. This will not only protect each of you from getting sick, but also protect others by killing any germs you may be passing along when shaking hands or sharing phones.
Step 3: Protect Your Immune System
Keeping your immune system in tip-top shape is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Your immune system is the part of your body that fights against disease, so it is important for it to be working properly in order to avoid getting sick. You can protect your immune system by:
- Eating a well-balanced diet: Research has shown that a poor diet can increase your chance of viral infections. A diet consisting of complex carbohydrates (found in fruits, vegetables, and grains), saturated fats (found in dairy products and animal meat), and proteins (found in meat, dairy, and legumes) is best for boosting your immune system.
- Getting enough sleep: While you are fast asleep, your immune system is busy repairing itself and getting ready for a long day of fighting off infection. Just as you perform slower when you lack sleep, so does your immune system. Adults should be getting about seven to nine hours of sleep every night, while children should be getting around 12-15, in order for immune systems to perform effectively.
- Exercising: Exercise slows down the release of the hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. Regular exercise is therefore an important part of boosting the immune system.
- Reducing stress: Likewise, because cortisol is a stress hormone, feeling stressed or pressured stimulates the release of the hormone, which has a negative effect on the immune system. Try to avoid stressful situations when possible in order to keep your immune system at its best.
If you do get infected, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible for a diagnosis and treatment. While there are many things you can do to protect yourself, nothing is 100% effective, and the best treatment you can get is provided by your doctor.