Building a strong immune system is the key to keeping your family healthy this winter.
The good news is that there are many easy and natural ways you can boost your family’s immune system and protect them from germs.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly fond of staying up all night with sick kids, cleaning up vomit, or wiping noses more often than I can count.
If you’re like me and want to avoid as much sickness as possible, read on.
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Leave the Germs Outside
Aim to keep your house as germ-free as possible.
First, implement a “no shoes in the house” rule.
Just think of all the disgusting surfaces your shoes come into contact with on a daily basis – dirt, public bathroom floors, sticky food courts, school art classrooms… *shudder*
Don’t bring all those germs into the house!
Don’t let them get rubbed into your carpet or on your kitchen mats. Or on your child’s toys when you accidentally step on one.
Have a designated shoe shelf or bin beside the door you use most frequently.
If you like to wear shoes in the house, keep a freshly-cleaned pair that you can easily change into beside the storage area – a designated “inside-only” pair.
On a similar note, change out of your work and school clothes as soon as you get home.
Clean the Right Way
Lysol wipes or all-natural sprays may work to give your house the “fresh-cleaned” scent, but skip the flowery products if you really want to get kill all the germs.
Get a tub of the Clorox Healthcare Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant Wipes.
These are one of the only household-friendly wipes that kill the dreaded norovirus.
During the fall and winter seasons, I try to wipe down our most-used surfaces (counters, railings, door knobs, etc) at least every other day.
Once a week, I spend 15 minutes disinfecting as much of the house as I can.
If you’re a busy mom like me, go ahead and get a few tubs so you can keep them around the house for easy access.
(Pssst… that’s just one of many amazing tips in my post on How to Keep a Clean House When You’re a Busy Working Mom)
Stick To A Healthy Diet to Boost Immune System
Make sure you’re getting plenty of veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds to give your body all the required nutrients to support a healthy immune system. They contain positive nutrients like Vitamins C & E, beta-carotene, and zinc.
Reach for all the brightly-colored produce like berries, citrus, kiwi, apples, kale, carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
Here’s just one example of boosting the immune system: this study found that increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables improved the body’s antibody response to the Pneumovax vaccine in older adults.
If you’re looking at more immune system boosting foods – check out garlic and mushrooms (particularly shiitake and maitake).
Garlic is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. Just don’t cook it too much (if at all) since heat will make it less effective.
On a similar note, be sure to limit sugar intake.
I know, I know. Christmas cookies and Halloween candy.
But excess sugar has lasting effects for hours on the body. It decreases the immune system cells that are supposed to be fighting off bacteria.
The Elderberry Immune System Boost
By far the most recommended supplement to boost your immune system is elderberry. It’s all my local mom group talks about!
Concentrated elderberry has been used for generations for immune support.
Sambucus Elderberry Syrup contains all the goodness to keep you healthy – including Vitamin C and Zinc.
There is some debate how often you should take it, some recommend daily and some recommend taking it on a 4 days on/3 days off schedule.
If you happen to develop a cold, increase your dosage from a teaspoon to a full tablespoon to help your body fight the infection.
Unfortunately not all products are the same. That’s why I recommend a reputable one like Sambucus Elderberry Syrup.
When shopping, make sure that the product has been tested for bioavailability (meaning that your body is actually getting the benefits).
It’s also a good idea to avoid any products that contain artificial colors and flavors.
Get Your Flu Shot
There may be controversy around the flu shot, but for me it’s a no-brainer.
For starters, flu shots tend to be more effective in children. Children (along with the elderly) are also more susceptible to extreme complications from the flu.
So for kids especially, the flu shot is critical.
Over 150 children died from the H3N2 strain of the flu during the brutal 2017-2018 season. It was the highest child mortality rate since the 2012/2013 season.
The rates of flu shot “effectiveness” vary from year to year. For the 2017-2018 season is was roughly 36% – which, despite being one of the lowest effective rates, is still a crucial number.
Small increases in immunity have a huge impact on the population as a whole. When fewer people get sick, that’s less of the viruses floating around to infect others.
But even low effective rates help your individual family too. If you do unfortunately contract the flu after receiving the vaccine, chances are the illness will be less extreme for you.
Rather than feeling like death for over a week, it will likely only be 2-3 days before you’re feeling better.
For the best immunity, the CDC recommends getting your flu shot by the end of October (which is when the flu seat really starts to hit). Keep in mind that the shot takes about 2 weeks for the shot to take effect.
But don’t worry if you missed the recommended window, in reality it’s never too late to get the flu vaccine! It will always help.
Gut Health is Key to a Healthy Immune System
Understanding gut bacteria is predicted to be a significant aspect in the future of medicine. It’s a very important aspect of your overall immune system.
Gut bacteria affect the entire body’s ability to protect against inflammation and fight infections. Check out this study which suggests that probiotic supplements can reduce the incidence of both respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
You can get probiotics through diet (think yogurt, fermented milk, and sauerkraut) or by supplementation.
For picky eaters, taking a designated probiotic is usually the easiest route.
I recommend NewRhythm Probiotics because they contain the 20 most clinically studied human probiotic strains, are resistant to stomach acid (so they actually reach your intestine), and are potent and stabile at room temperature.
For children who can’t swallow small capsules, I highly recommend Culturelle Kids Packets Daily Probiotic Supplement. We try to steer clear of gummy products as they aren’t recommended by dentists.
Wash Your Hands
Don’t skip this point!
We all know handwashing is important and I am sure you’re washing your hands already.
Chances are, you’re not doing it enough.
Washing before meals and after using the restroom isn’t going to cut it.
Wash your hands when you wake up in the morning, after you sneeze or cough, after playing with toys in one room before going into another, when you get home from grocery shopping, after ordering meals at a restaurant, etc.
All these extra hand washes adds up!
Also make sure you are washing your hands correctly.
Scrub not only your hands, but your wrists too. Be sure you are using soap and rubbing vigorously for at least 20 seconds.
This is literally the most important thing you can do to protect your immune system.
Keep Those Hands Clean
Unfortunately in the real world, we can’t realistically wash our hands enough.
Or you’ll be really good about it for one day… and then start slacking like 99.9% of moms (myself included).
Many moms swear by Nano Pure Next Generation Hand Sanitizer & 24-Hour Skin Protectant Spray to keep their kids safe.
This is way more than an ordinary hand sanitizer.
Personally, we wash our hands when we wake up in the morning before breakfast, eat breakfast, wash our hands again, and then apply the spray before heading out for the day.
Even though it doesn’t leave a weird feeling or film on the skin after use, it provides protection all day long.
Note that this does not replace hand washing – that is still super important. It’s designed to supplement good hygiene practices.
Catch Lots of Z’s For A Healthy Immune System
Sleep deprivation (and other causes of stress) increase the body’s production of cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and causes inflammation.
For bonus immune system boost – clean those pillowcases regularly.
Yep. I know it’s cold – but there are some good reasons to bundle up and play outdoors.
First, those sun rays trigger the skin’s production of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is easy to get in the summer months when the sunlight is strong. In winter months, you’ll need longer amounts of sun exposure (at least 15+ minutes daily).
Low vitamin D levels have been shown to increase the risk of respiratory infection.
Additionally, this study from 2010 showed us that kids taking a daily vitamin D supplement was correlated to lower rates of influenza A.
Another good reason to get out there – regular exercise is a great step to build a healthy immune system.
Regular, moderate exercise can help the immune system fight illness and infections.
I’m not talking running a marathon – even a 30 minute walk or playing session helps.
Well there you have it, it’s not hard to do everything in your power to keep your family healthy this winter.
A lot of the criticism I’ve received when I tell people about these methods is that I’m “shielding my kids from germs” or that “exposing kids to germs is a good thing”.
To those naysayers, I’m on your side!
Some of my methods reduce the number of germs kids come into contact with (protectant spray, hand washing, etc). However, many of my methods are just boosting your immune system (supplements, sleep, healthy diet, etc.).
Of course kids are going to come into contact with germs – and that’s a great thing.
My goal is to give their little bodies every possible chance to fight off those infections.
In those cases, your body learns immunity AND they don’t get sick. That’s a ‘win-win’ in my book.
Do you agree with me? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
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