Every year the flu dominates the news for a few weeks and every few years there seems to be a mega virus that creates a pandemic in an area, if not globally. And both deserve some attention not because we should live in fear, but because we need to know how to minimize our own exposure to viruses for the elderly, immunocompromised, and susceptible individuals we love.
How to minimize exposure to illness for the sake of loved ones
Even with an amazing recovery rate for almost all colds, flus, and seasonal viruses, it is why it’s important to know how to keep our family healthier.
Schools closing in your area? Here’s a guide to juggle school at home and work.
7 research-backed ways to maintain better health during sick season
I will start by saying this by no means should replace the wisdom of your doctor. In fact, most of these points are simply about exposure. But I felt the need to re-iterate that just in case. ALL OF MY RESEARCH IS CITED AT THE BOTTOM.
Don’t panic, stay positive & literally don’t lose sleep over it.
First and foremost, it’s important to not fear getting sick. Fear raises our stress levels which increases cortisol in the body. Sleep is one of the times our body has the lowest cortisol and stress. We have found several studies both showing the link between sleep and immune function as well as how a positive attitude can boost your immune function too! [1,2]
Order your food
Instead of wading through the aisles of potentially sick people or exposing yourself to surfaces harboring of germs, minimize the risk with online ordering as much as you can. We have done this a lot during sick seasons for several years because of babies in the house and also not wanting not only my own hands touching surfaces, but the 6-8 other little hands exploring their surroundings… not to mention the facts that kids tends to lick things.
Shopping carts are one of the most unsanitary items you can touch in public. According to a 2012 study, “The high numbers of HPC bacteria and coliform bacteria indicate unsanitary conditions of the carts compared with other public places and surfaces that the general public comes into contact. This increases the risk of coming into contact with a disease-causing organism.” 
And among the dirtiest? the seat where children sit because it rarely gets wiped, yet fecal matter that can shed viruses often comes in contact with it and then either your children or your food or purse or whatever else gets put in the seat.
Here are our favorite places to order food: We have included affiliate links and may earn from qualifying purchases. We have also shared our referral links, those help pay for our family’s groceries.
- Whole Foods – we have ordered from Whole Foods via Amazon and had it at our doorstep within a couple of hours. It’s pricier than some options, but nice to have fresh foods fast.
- Prime Pantry – This is a great way to regularly stay ahead. They offer up to ten percent off based on how many things are in your box, but it’s different from S&S!
- Subscribe and Save – THIS IS MY FAVORITE. I have subscribe and save set up on a lot of health remedies like high dose vitamin C and have them delivered through the sick months whereas I have sunscreen coming during the Summer months.
- Misfits Market Market – We get between 50 and 75 pounds of fresh produce weekly from these services when going out is just not an option. This was true back when we lived in urban Boston and even now as we’re on a rural farm.
- Instacart – for over a year we have turn our express membership off and on depending on whether we had a new baby in the house or if someone was sick. I have found that even ordering through ALDI the total price was cheaper than going to the store myself to a different grocer. Get $20 off your first order here.
- Butcher Box – Before we raised our own meat, I ordered predominantly whole chickens because I can get both a meal or two out of them on top of homemade broth. But it’s a great way to get quality meat shipped to your door; the beef is grass fed and finished, etc.. If you shop their extra add-ons you can really score! I have gotten organic ground beef for under $3.5/pound. Get $30 off your first order.
Build your own and your family’s immune defenses
Try to eat clean because fruits and veggies not just provide nutrients, but they also are a prebiotic to help a healthy gut do its job to keep our bodies healthy.
Know your go-to supplements! When viruses are spreading like wildfire and during the winter months, we have a whole arsenal of things we take. The big two are D3 and pure, high-dose Vitamin C. Here is some research and a dosing chart for high dose C. It needs to be a pure form, but the good news is that it’s cheap!
Here are our favorite go-to supplements: Again, affiliate links included.
- Vitamin C to help reduce the duration of getting sick but to also help the body prevent sickness. . It is an antiviral agent and know to help fight the flu.
- Vitamin D
- L-Lysine to support the immune system
- Beta Glucans This is a complex derived from plants and has been shown to have an immune stimulating effect. 
- Echinacea/Astragalus for kids I keep this on hand for most sicknesses, but I also read research showing that astragalus helps fight coxsackie viruses like HFMD, chicken pox, etc.. 
- Dried Elderberries for syrup and tea. Find our elderberry syrups recipes here. There is a lot of research showing that it has an anti-viral effect. We don’t take it daily though I know some do. But we do take it before going to crowded spaces or when we know we’ll be around someone who is sick.
Several years ago I read some research on sugar and its impact on the immune system. It talks about a decrease in immune function for the first thirty minutes after consuming it and an effect that basically “froze” the white blood cells from acting. From the time I read that, we have not eaten sugar in public during sick season or consumed it right before heading out. Of course, I can’t track it down right now, so you can take my word for it or just read that as anecdotal.
Wash your hands often
I think this one is a no-brainer, but let’s look a little bit deeper into the chemistry.
Make sure that you’re using the right product for the job.
If you’re trying to keep away a virus, anti-bacterial soap or wipes won’t help. Hand sanitizer also may not be the best at fighting viruses.
Why? Soap can break the fat membrane apart and make the virus fall apart and become inactive; therefore, soap makes it unable to infect you and your loved ones.
Be aware of surfaces.
Viruses like things to get inside of like clothes, skin, wood, and other things it can form a hydrogen bond with. So go ahead and ditch your clothes at the door to wash. And know what you’re touching in the first place! 
Have a family codeword in public
We discuss with our children often about covering coughs and sneezes to protect other people from getting our germs. We also talk about not touching things unnecessarily. But no one is perfect and sometimes we forget. Therefore, we use the code phrase “hands in pockets” when we see someone in the family touching without need. Or other subtle ways to remind each other to stay mindful.
Stay ahead of food needs as much as you can
Ok, so you don’t need to have 6 months worth of toilet paper or even a doomsday amount of rice. However, it’s good practice throughout the year to build up a buffer zone of food to your own ability. This helps during outbreaks of illness, protect for if you’re sick and can’t go anywhere, and for emergencies like power outages and natural disasters.
I know people that have a year or more supply but I also know families living for each paycheck. The more you can create a buffer to rotate, the safer you are to give your family a break from going anywhere or bringing in anything that could get someone sick. This matters even if you’re a healthy family because it helps even out the spike in spreading something like coronavirus. Even though it’s got a great recovery rate, the number of people still needing to be hospitalized in a pandemic may be too great for the number of beds available.
Staying at home when a virus of any kind if running rampant is great practice to keep vulnerable populations healthy.
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A few gentle reminders for the whole family to stay healthy during any illness and good practices to follow! Plus, a small area to write down important phone numbers or notes. Laminate for best use. Click the image to get a high-resolution PDF.
- Gerba, Charles P., and Sheri Maxwell. “Bacterial contamination of shopping carts and approaches to control.” Food protection trends 32.12 (2012): 747-749.
- Wang, Mengjie et al. “Chinese herbal medicines as a source of molecules with anti-enterovirus 71 activity.” Chinese medicine vol. 11 2. 28 Jan. 2016, doi:10.1186/s13020-016-0074-0
- Otakar Rop, Jiri Mlcek, Tunde Jurikova, Beta-glucans in higher fungi and their health effects, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 67, Issue 11, 1 November 2009, Pages 624–631, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00230.x
- Ströhle A, Hahn A. [Vitamin C and immune function]. Medizinische Monatsschrift fur Pharmazeuten. 2009 Feb;32(2):49-54; quiz 55-6.
- “Why Do We Use Soap?” LiveScience, Purch, www.livescience.com/57044-science-of-soap.html.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!