Nearly five months into the pandemic, we find ourselves not in a “new normal” but still in a “no normal” state. Aside from three primary ways to protect ourselves from viral respiratory droplets—wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing—we can take other steps to improve our family’s immunity against illness.
There’s no quick “boost” to having a strong immune system. It takes time, balance and consistency to fight off infections. Preventive care, diet and nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep and decreased stress play key roles to improving your family’s overall health.
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, health care experts believed that patients could not test positive for both the flu and COVID-19. Now we know that it is possible to have both at the same time. So getting a flu vaccine this year is crucial. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends standard dose flu vaccinations for everyone ages six months and older and high dose shots for ages 65 and older.
Healthy eating habits help defend against inflammation. Diets that consistently include plenty of fresh fruits and green, leafy vegetables can keep us healthier. National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies show that diet impacts children’s learning and behavior. Serve them a breakfast of whole grains, high fiber and protein-rich foods rather than sugary cereals and processed foods. Vary lunch options with turkey and cheese rollups, fruit, yogurt, hummus and pita bread, and plenty of water.
While staying home, we must keep moving to improve our immune systems. The harder the heart pumps, the more blood it circulates to the muscles and more white cells it sends throughout the body to fight infection. The American Heart Association recommends 2.5 hours per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense activity a week. Make exercise a family activity.
Sleep More, Stress Less
Many of us have coronavirus insomnia while worrying about sickness, loss of work and paying bills. Unfortunately, lack of sleep and stress suppress our immune systems. An average of seven hours a night for adults and nine to twelve hours for children, depending on their age, is vital for well-functioning immune systems.
Studies show that sleep enhances white blood cell response to help fight infection. If having trouble sleeping, try making the room cooler and diffuse some lavender essential oil. Listen to a mindful meditation or calming music or read a book until dozing off. If awaking during the night, get up and walk around the house. But do not grab a phone to read emails or social media.
Children naturally respond to what’s going on around them, so they may not be sleeping restfully. Give younger children warm baths shortly before bedtime and read to them as they fall asleep. Encourage older kids to read an actual book, not an electronic device.