5 ways to family health this holiday season

Saad and Ray Dinno

The holidays are an exciting time of year, filled with festive gatherings, home cooked meals and maybe a road trip to Grandma’s house. Yet, we also know that this time of year can mean catching colds and other illnesses that detract from all the fun. To help keep you and your family healthy this season, we’ve listed five things to keep in mind so that you can all enjoy the holidays.

1. Balance your plate

We know that at the heart of every holiday party is a table filled with cookies, cakes and other desserts. If you and your family are frequent party-goers this month, you may find your kids’ sugar consumption at an all-time high.

To offset this imbalance, offer to bring a fruit or vegetable tray to your next gathering. Presenting an alternative to the sugary sweets will encourage kids to add an assortment of food to their plate, so that they are still getting nutrients along with a few treats.

Sugar actually lowers our immune systems, spikes and then zaps our energy, and when paired with the stress of travel and lack of sleep during the holidays, heightens the risk of illness. So, next time you come face-to-face with another dessert tray, encourage your kids to create a more balanced plate, mixed with fruits, veggies and of course, a few treats. 

2. Take your vitamins

Our customers often ask us what vitamins and supplements could be helpful health aids this time of year. Elderberry, sometimes referred to as Sambucus, is an immune-boosting supplement that reduces inflammation and is packed with antioxidants to help fight cold and flu symptoms. Look for brands that sell it without any added sugar.

Monolaurin is another immune-boosting supplement made from lauric acid, which is found in coconut oil. It has multiple anti-viral properties and helps fight cold and flu. Vitamin C is also known for its role in supporting the immune system and is available in a variety of dosage forms including capsules, powder and tablets. Don’t forget, of course, to continue taking your daily probiotic to maintain a healthy gut. 

3. Wash, wash, wash your hands

Washing your hands is an easy thing to do, yet sometimes we forget. This is particularly important to remember in busy places such as malls or airports, where thousands of people are visiting each and every day.

If your child is feeling a bit under the weather, as a courtesy to others, have them stay home and rest up. While it can be frustrating for kids to miss out on the holiday activities, it’s better to avoid spreading illnesses at school and in other places, and for them to take the time to recover in the comfort of their own home.

Remind your kids to use soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or sing “Happy Birthday” to themselves two times through. While hand sanitizer is quick and easy to use, it is still no match for soap and warm water. Keep this mind when you and your family are out and about this December.  

4. Don’t forget your flu shot

If you haven’t already gotten your flu shot, it’s not too late. By December, flu season is already well underway, and sure to be an unwelcomed guest this holiday. The flu shot is particularly important for children, as they are at high risk for contracting the illness, and is recommended by the CDC for everyone above six months of age. Remember that the flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your family’s risk of catching the flu and disrupting your holiday plans.  

5. Bundle up and get outside

Getting some fresh air is always important, and playing outside in the snow is a great way to get outside. Going outside in the colder weather speeds up metabolism and also boosts vitamin D. However, before your kids to head outside, make sure they are properly bundled up.

Hats, gloves, boots and a coat, of course, are a must for sledding and building snowmen. We highly recommend dressing in layers, too, for added warmth. Outdoor activity in the winter is an easy way to limit screen time indoors and plays an important role in your child’s health and development. 

Saad and Ray Dinno, brothers, are registered pharmacists and co-owners of Acton Pharmacy, Keyes Drug in Newton, and West Concord Pharmacy.