Wash those little hands. Many winter illnesses are spread by hand-to-hand contact. Teach your children to wash their hands frequently, especially after group play.
Eat immune-boosting foods. In our medical practice, especially during winter season, I encourage families to follow our immune-strengthening five-S diet: salmon, smoothies, salads, spices, and supplements (such as omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D, and a fruit and vegetable concentrate called Juice Plus). I also prescribe lots of “fruit and yogurt smoothies.”
Keep the nose and sinuses clear. Germs settle first in the nose and sinuses, so it’s important to keep these passages flushed out. Here’s Dr. Bill’s clean-nose regimen:
Start with a “nose hose.” Make your own saltwater nose drops (¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt to 8-ounces of warm water) or buy a “saline solution” at your local pharmacy or supermarket. Spritz a few drops of the solution into your child’s nose and gently suction out the loosened secretions using a nasal aspirator, which the veteran nose-cleaners in my medical practice dub a “snot-snatcher.”
Finish with a “steam clean.” Make a home steam bath by turning on a hot shower in the bathroom and closing the door. Fifteen minutes of concentrated steam while your baby is nursing or playing will keep her nose clear. For older children, use a facial steamer. Let your children see you use a facial steamer while reading a book or watching TV and market it as “Oh, it makes my face feel so soft!”
Blow the nose with care. Teach your children to blow gently, one nostril at a time. Don’t hold both nostrils tightly while you blow, and don’t blow your nose forcefully. This jams nasal secretions into the sinus cavities, which can cause a sinus infection.
Turn down the heat and turn on the vaporizer. The dry air caused by central heating can thicken nasal and bronchial secretions. Vaporizers have a double benefit: besides adding nasal-friendly humidity to dry winter air, a vaporizer acts as a healthy heat source, and steaming sterilizes the water. Remember your high-school physics? As steam condenses, heat is released, keeping a small bedroom comfortably toasty. You not only save on energy costs, but you wake up with a clear nose.
Humming helps sinus congestion. New insights into upper airway health reveals that humming may help keep breathing passages open. When you hum you stimulate the air in the nose and sinuses to oscillate, which triggers the release of nitric oxide from the lining of nasal and sinus cavities. This nitric oxide is a natural medicine that widens blood vessels in the lungs, which helps the lungs deliver more oxygen.