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With flu season around the corner, many of us are thinking about how we can keep our babies healthy during the fall and winter months.  And with the swine flu H1N1 virus in the news, we have even MORE reason to keep our kids healthy.  Personally, I’d like to give a little shout out to H1N1… because we needed one more virus to worry about.

Should your child get a flu shot?  Is that the best protection from the circulating viruses lurking in day cares, play groups, grocery stores,… yikes I can’t write anymore or I’ll be housebound for the next 6 months!  If you don’t get the flu shot for your child, how can you keep your little munchkin’s immune system strong for the winter months?  Here are some things to think about.

Dr. Sears, author of The Vaccine Book reports some interesting facts about flu shots:

  • Each year several strains of the flu virus are included in the current vaccine in hopes of covering the predicted strain for the upcoming year.  Yes, this means you are not guaranteed that the strain in the vaccine is the correct one for flu season.  Sure, scientists make an educated guess, but it is still a guess.  It is also good to note that there could be additional strains of the flu going around each season that are not included in the vaccine.
  • Flu vaccines come in both a live-virus form (usually a nasal spray) and a killed-virus form (injection).
  • Most flu vaccines still contain trace amounts of mercury and larger doses of mercury are still present in multi-dose flu shots.
  • Side affects are more likely to occur with the live-virus form of the vaccine.
  • Flu vaccines have more chemicals than most vaccines including: mercury, formaldehyde (known carcinogen), MSG, octoxynol, polysorbate and sodium deoxycholate.
  • Those who are allergic to eggs should not get the flu vaccine.

Sounds like I might be against the flu shot?  I’m not necessarily against it, but as a mama I am concerned about giving the shot to Kula Baby when his body is so small.  Those chemicals will pack a larger punch for him.  However, even if I decided to give Kula Baby the shot to keep me from spending our life savings on Cleanwell wipes all winter, I might pause after reading about a study found in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, 2008.  In a review of more than 51 studies involving more than 263,000 children it was found there was no evidence that injecting children 6-24 months of age with a flu shot was any more effective than a placebo.  In children over 2 yrs, the flu shot was only effective 33%-36% of the time in preventing the flu depending on the type of vaccine given.  I’m sorry, WHAT?

However, the flu can be nasty and we are lucky the flu shot is offered for those individuals who want it.  Parents must make an individual and personal decision for themselves and for their children.  In my own research on the matter, I found The Vaccine Book by Robert W. Sears, MD to be the most neutral source out there, although I’m sure many would disagree with me.  Dr. Tenpenny makes an argument for why parents should avoid the flu shot (and all shots in general).  Her website is informative, however, after reading Dr. Tenpenny’s thoughts about vaccinations you may feel like you are single-handedly damaging your child—so make a note to give yourself a pep talk before meandering that way.  On the other end of the spectrum the CDC website tells us all the benefits of getting a flu shot.  For me, informing myself on all levels was very helpful when making my decision this year.

So let’s forget about shots for the moment and talk about what we can do to boost the immune system naturally, shall we?

I think it’s important to note that the majority of our immune system is in the gut, so a healthy gut is key to a healthy immune system.  How can you ensure your child has a healthy gut?  Feed your little one real food in the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and protein.  Avoid foods your child may be allergic and/or sensitive to and avoid additives and preservatives.  Want the short version?  Avoid “food” that comes out of a box and you should be all set.

If you are interested in specific immune boosting nutrients, here are a few to focus on this winter:

  • Vitamin A (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, egg yolks, apricots, peaches, mango)
  • Vitamin C (broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi, spinach, oranges, red berries)
  • Vitamin D3 (salmon and eggs)

You can also keep yourself healthy by using good hygiene.   Bauman College has a great write up on how to stay healthy during flu season.  They offer a few pointers:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay home if you are sick (Why, OH WHY, do sick people go to work?  Why do sick children go to school?!  Please stay home and get better!).
  • Don’t sneeze or cough into your hands!!!!  Come on!  Use your sleeve!
  • If you are around sick people, or around groups of people at all—avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this is how an infection can enter the body.  Have you ever tried to stop yourself from doing this?  It is nearly impossible to stop touching your eyes once you focus on NOT touching your eyes.

Bauman College also has a great write up on how you can eat for immunity.  Click here for all the details.  The document is called Eating 4 Health: Viral Protection.  Among the plethora of ideas about how to eat healthy this winter (and meal plans too), Bauman points out a few things to avoid in your diet including: sugar, alcohol, processed and refined foods, hydrogenated oils, safflower, sunflower, corn oils, soft drinks, stress, and my favorite…..people who are toxic to you. Love the advice.

Flu season takes on new meaning when you have a little one in the house.  It’s good to know we can help our children stay healthy through smart food and lifestyle choices.  Otherwise many of us might never leave the house with our baby in hopes of sheltering him or her from SWINE and GERMS.  Germs are out there, it’s a fact of life.  I was reminded of this yesterday when Kula Baby decided to chomp down on the shopping cart handle while riding with me in Target.  I moved faster than the speed of light to break his jaw grip, but it was too late.  His lips met a PUBLIC HANDLE.  Yes, I wiped it down with Cleanwell before he jumped in (can you tell I’m a fan?) but I’m sure he managed to lick up a few stray germs floating around on that thing.  Ugh.  Thank goodness for his healthy  immune system, right?  I’m pretty sure he’s capable of surviving the handle incident without a trip to the ER.   Bring on winter!

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