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Keeping kids healthy

With summer under our belts, the time has come to iron the uniforms, ready the back packs and send our kids to school (unless of course, you homeschool).  It is that time of year when parents breathe a sigh of relief while simultaneously battling the feeling of dread that comes with sending our children off, away from our care.  One of the many worries on a mother’s list of concerns is germs.

Like it or not, schools and daycare centers are overflowing with bacteria and are essentially cold and flu bugs waiting to happen.  As any Mom with more than one child can attest to, the minute one of your children comes home with a stuffy nose or complains of a sore throat, you will teeter back and forth between concern for their well-being and panic over the fact that it won’t be long before your other little ones succumb to the virus.  Caring for one sick child is hard enough, but life can quickly become nightmarish when a bug spreads to the rest of your family.

While keeping our youngsters away from bacteria entirely is unrealistic, there are some precautions you can take to minimize the effects of the germs your children are exposed to.  Today’s post outlines four simple steps you and your family can take to decrease the likelihood of your kids becoming ill.

Hand Washing

The best way to prevent the spread of germs is by washing our hands.  Germs are everywhere so it’s highly unlikely that your child will avoid coming in to contact with them.  Everything they touch, especially in the classroom and on the playground, is coated with bacteria.  Unless your child is regularly washing their hands, they are bound to fall victim to the same bug that took down little Susie last week.  Hand washing is especially important before lunch and snack times as this prevents the spread to your child’s food and their subsequent consumption.  Talk about a fast-track to illness!  Get your children in to the habit of washing their hands with warm water and soap.  Encourage them to work up a good lather, wash the top and bottom of hands as well as under and around the finger nails.  In order to successfully remove germs, hand washing should be done for the length of time it takes to sing the alphabet song twice.  If you or your children aren’t able to get to a sink, sanitizer is the next best thing. Keep a small bottle tucked away in their back pack.  Show them where it is and teach them how to use it.  Like hand washing, sanitizer should also be used on the top of the hands, bottom and around the finger nails.

Disinfect

Since germs are everywhere, you can contain their spread by disinfecting the surfaces they sit on.  Counter tops, door handles, tables, chairs, handrails, toilet levers, and faucets should all be disinfected regularly, and even more frequently during cold and flu season.  Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s teacher if they have a plan to contain or prevent the spread of germs in the classroom.  Since many schools have budget restrictions, you might be surprised to learn that there is no plan at all.  If this is the case in your school district, you could offer to supply the classroom with disinfectant wipes which are great for this exact purpose.  If you don’t want to absorb the cost for this all on your own, you can always ask other parents to contribute to, or share the expense. You’ll probably find that most are willing to chip in since no parent enjoys caring for a sick child.

Not Sharing is Caring

This next bit of advice might confuse your children, especially since most parents preach at their kids about the importance of sharing.  However, when it comes to cold and flu season, all bets are off.  Not only is sharing not recommended, it is condemned.  When your child accepts food from the dirty germ-covered hand of one of their friends, or takes a drink from a communal straw, bottle or sippy cup, they are essentially ingesting all of the germs that you have worked so hard at coaching them to wash off.  Let them know that the snacks packed in their own lunch boxes are provided for them and that these are the only ones they should be eating.

Support Healthy Immune Systems

You can support your child’s immune function by ensuring they are eating a healthy balanced diet, and getting adequate sleep.  Studies have shown a drop in T-cells when we are sleep deprived.  This can compromise the function of the immune system and leave us susceptible to colds and flu.  Children between the ages of 3 and 12 should be getting 10 – 12 hours of sleep per day.

There are no two ways about it, Mommies are superheroes.  We care for our families through sickness and health; often when we are run-down ourselves.  However, it’s important for superheros to take care of themselves too.  Get enough rest (when possible- we know the life of a busy mom doesn’t always allow time for sleep) and taking a multivitamin for women will fill in the nutritional gaps when our diet is lacking.

Most of the above tips are no-brainers and you’ll find a little common sense can go a long way in helping to prevent the spread of germs and keep your family healthy.

Wishing you and your kiddos a healthy school year!

 

The Promise Prenatal Team

The power of antioxidants1

“Antioxidant” seems to be the hottest buzzword in the health industry today.  It’s front and center on vitamins and supplements, and even shows up on the labels of our personal care products.  From hair care to skin creams, marketing departments have clearly begun to recognize the selling power of the term, so we thought we’d break down exactly what they are, and why we need them.

In a nutshell, antioxidants counteract the body’s oxidation process which produces cell damaging free radicals.  Free radicals are extremely unstable molecules with an odd number of electrons that can alter the structure of your cells permanently damaging your DNA.  Because these electrons are unpaired, they travel through the body looking to buddy-up by stealing electrons leading to a chain of biochemical events which create more free radicals.  Free radical / cellular damage has been linked to premature aging of the skin, muscles and other organs, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and several other forms of illness.

If you’ve ever watched an apple turn brown after it’s been sliced and left to sit out, you are already familiar with oxidation.  This same process occurs within the body every day yet the environment we live in can add even more to our oxidation load.  The sun’s UV rays, air pollution and cigarette smoke can all cause further oxidative stress.  While our bodies are capable of defending against some of this, it could always benefit from some extra help and this is where the power of antioxidants comes in.  Antioxidants have the ability to stabilize free radicals thereby preventing their ability to cause disease promoting cellular damage.

Studies have shown a decreased rate of heart disease, cancer, and muscular degeneration in people with higher antioxidant intake which may well be why the term has become the buzzword it has.  Now, even though you may see it plastered across bags, boxes and bottles, it’s important to note in combination with vitamins, your diet remains the most effective way to get your fill of disease fighting antioxidants.  Eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is a good start as they tend to have the highest content.

Beta-Carotene / Vitamin A, Manganese, Selenium, Zinc and Vitamins C and E are all powerful antioxidants which can act as a shield and help prevent the damage caused by harmful free radicals.  We’ve listed some foods below to help you get started on increasing your intake.

 

Beta Carotene –  mangoes, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots
Manganese – pecans, oats, pine nuts, brown rice, flax seeds, pineapple
Selenium – Brazil nuts, quinoa, cottage cheese, chicken
Zinc – Pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews, wheat germ
Vitamin C – Strawberries, oranges, kiwis, spinach, broccoli
Vitamin E – Kale, Spinach, pine nuts, chick peas, lentils chick peas, vegetable and sunflower oils.

There is no way to prevent oxidation, or stop free radicals from forming, but you can certainly take steps to help prevent the amount of damage they can do.  If it’s antioxidants you’re after, a healthy diet in addition to your prenatal vitamins, is the way to go.

Playing with sand

It’s no secret that the elements can affect the condition of the skin and with summer upon us, we thought now would be a good time to give you the low down on how to care for your skin and protect it from the abuse it’s subjected to throughout the upcoming season.

While some may love to bask in it, the most obvious assailant is the sun.  While it is by and large the most damaging, the sun is not the only culprit capable of wreaking havoc on our skin during the summer months; chlorine, humidity and excessive heat can also create their fair share of problems.

The type of damage caused by the sun’s UV rays is referred to as photoaging. After years of unprotected exposure to the sun, the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin break down, and the ability to regenerate new collagen is drastically reduced.  The result is sagging skin with a leathery or weathered appearance and while leather may be nice in a handbag, it is far from an ideal look for your skin.  Over-exposure to the sun can also lead to age spots and other pigmentation disorders, and of course the worst case scenario; skin cancer.

Now we know you’ve heard it said many times before, but it bears repeating because it’s true.  The number one thing you can do to care for your skin this summer is to wear sunscreen.  You should be using an SPF of 15 or higher throughout the year, but sunscreen is particularly crucial in the summer months when the UV rays are at their strongest.  Apply one with a minimum SPF of 30 about half an hour before sun exposure.  It should be reapplied every two to three hours, and immediately after swimming regardless of the time of your last application.  If you’re looking for extra protection, wear a hat.  We know, we know…everyone wants the look of a “sun-kissed goddess” however, sun-kissed today, leaves you wrinkled tomorrow.   If you’re looking for color, get it from a bottle or a bronzer.

Those with rosacea may have already discovered that the heat can aggravate the skin and cause the condition to flare up.  Keeping cool, is the key to preventing excessive outbreaks in the summer months.

Thanks to the sun and the drying nature of various pool chemicals, there tend to be more dead skin cells sitting on the surface layer during the hotter months.  Once that summer heat kicks in, the pores open wide creating a breeding ground for bacteria.  Gently exfoliate your skin every other day throughout the summer to slough away the dead skin cells.  This will prevent them from getting in to the pores causing unwanted blemishes.

More sun means more swimming and whether you’re in the ocean or splashing about in the backyard pool, chlorine, saltwater, and even too much freshwater can disrupt the PH balance of your skin causing dryness and flaking.  Although you may not think your skin needs as much moisture as it does in the winter months, it is just as important throughout the summer.  If you feel that your winter moisturizer is too greasy or heavy, you can always opt for a lighter, water-based formula.

While some skin aging is unavoidable, photoaging and the damage caused by overexposure to the elements is.  It may not be widely recognized as such, but sunscreen is THE single most effective beauty product on the market. Remember, an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.

Have a safe and happy summer!

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