Dealing with an illness, whether the flu or just a cold, can be challenging at best. When YOU’RE the one who is sick, trying to take care of your kids can seem nearly impossible. It is so important that as leaders of our family, we take care of ourselves. Many times when we are hit with an illness, we continue to soldier on. However, this can actually lead to worsening of symptoms or a longer duration of illness. If you show any signs or symptoms of the flu, please see your healthcare provider immediately. We all know Mommy is the glue that holds the family together – take care of yourself, so you can keep up with the kiddos!
Symptoms of the Flu
Influenza can include any or all of the following signs and symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Lack of energy
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
Although fever is one of the more common symptoms of the flu, you don’t necessarily have to have a fever to have the flu. Most fever and body aches last 3-5 days, while the cough and lack of energy could last for 2 or more weeks, especially in elderly patients.
One of the challenges of being sick is when you have multiple symptoms, be it congestion, fever, body aches, sore throat, or cough. Often people turn to multi-symptom over-the-counter (OTC) products, but these products often contain more than one ingredient. It is very important to read the Drug Facts label and be sure you aren’t taking two of the same ingredients, such as acetaminophen, when using OTC products to help treat symptoms of the flu.
- Always read the Drug Facts label before administering any OTC medicine.
- Never give oral cough/cold medicines to kids under the age of 4.
- KnowYourOTCs is an incredible resource that all parents should have bookmarked. It can help guide and answer all the questions you have on OTC medications.
Preventing the Flu
Maybe you’re not showing any symptoms of the flu (yet) or you have the flu and want to keep the rest of your family from getting it too – Check out these 5 helpful tips for preventing the flu:
1. Wash Your Hands
The research has shown that the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness is to wash our hands. Good hand washing habits start at home. Wash your hands often and with soap, and make sure the kids do, too! They need to understand the importance of clean hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and after arriving home from school. If the school allows it, have your child carry disposable wipes in their backpack for quick cleanups. It is equally important to cover your mouth before sneezing or coughing. Good hygiene is the key to decreasing the spread of germs.
2. Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is extremely important to maintaining good health and strong immunity. When we are run down and tired, we become more vulnerable to sickness. As we start the new year, it is time to focus on healthy sleep habits. Create a bedtime schedule for the whole family, and stick to it. If you want to move bedtime up, we recommend starting bedtime preparation 15 minutes earlier each week until you achieve your desired bedtime.
3. Eat A Healthy Diet
A well balanced diet is the key to a healthy year. Certain fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients such as vitamin C and carotenoids, which can help to boost your immune system. Strawberries, blueberries, oranges, green beans, and carrots contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that can help to increase your production of infection-fighting white blood cells and interferons, which will help fight off illness. Get the whole family involved in healthy eating while you’re at it. Children are more motivated to try new things when they are involved in the process, let them go to the store with you and pick out their own snacks.
4. Take Elderberry Supplements*
A lot of parents struggle with illness (their own and their kids’) when children are in school or daycare. Parents are always asking me if there is any supplement they can give their child to help prevent illness. Although there is no magic medicine to help prevent illness, elderberry has been used since ancient times to help promote immunity. In addition to treating symptoms, you can also use this supplement similar to a daily vitamin. There are many ways to incorporate this natural supplement into your diet. I love the idea of making elderberry syrup for pancakes and waffles!
*Please remember there are contradictions and limitations to elderberry syrup so it is imperative that you discuss with your doctor whether it is appropriate for you or your child to start taking this supplement. Children under the age of 1 should not take elderberry. Please make sure your doctor goes over appropriate dosing with you.
5. Get the Flu Shot
Recently, I have been asked a lot if it is too late to get the flu shot. The answer is NO! While I treat cases of the flu year round, most of the time, flu activity peaks between the months of December and February. However, activity can last into May. Flu vaccination is the first line of defense to prevent flu. In addition, the vaccine has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense to treat flu illness.
See a doctor on day 1 or 2 if you think you have the flu, especially if you are high risk. We consider the following groups high-risk:
- Children under 2 years old
- Adults over 65 years old
- Pregnant women
- Anyone with complicated/severe illness and those with underlying health problems (i.e., asthma, diabetes, heart problems, neurologic conditions, etc.)
Final Thoughts on Surviving Symptoms of the Flu
It is important to understand that although OTC medications, home remedies, and supplements can help to protect and alleviate the symptoms of congestion, cough, and other flu-like symptoms, it should never take the place of receiving appropriate medical help. If you or your child are suffering from the symptoms of the flu, it is important that you seek the advice of your physician or pediatrician. When Mama is down, the whole house feels it, so please take care of yourself, whether you have a cold, the flu, or just need to find a little balance in your life this year!