How are you doing mama? It’s been a funny couple of weeks, hasn’t it?
Toilet paper may be the new currency, schools are closing down, flights are cancelled, international borders are tightening and many of us are left feeling confused about what actions we should be taking to help minimise the spread of coronavirus.
We have friends in Italy, family in Australia and New Zealand and we live in Canada, where our own Prime Minister is in self-isolation with his wife Sophie having tested positive for the virus. We’ve observed the vastly contrasting attitudes and actions different countries are taking and while we don’t need to panic, we can learn from countries like Italy who are warning us not to underestimate the potential ramifications of early inaction.
The good news is that COVID-19 is mild for most healthy adults and children who succumb to it. The challenge is that as a global community we have a responsibility to take personal action to protect our elders, our parents, those who are immunocompromised and those who have pre-existing respiratory issues like asthma, like my husband and my brother…and your family members too.
So, here are the actions we’re taking as a family, which keep evolving as this pandemic changes so I will keep this post updated. I’ve also included some of the most helpful articles I’ve found online with practical tips to help you and your family, as well as ideas for activities for your kids while they’re at home.
Measures to help prevent coronavirus
Handwashing frequently – The current best guess by the CDC is that the new coronavirus is transmitted via close contact and surface contamination. So make sure to you and your kids wash your hands with warm soap and water for at least 30 seconds before eating and before touching your face when out and about. This article by Holistic Pediatrician and Mama, Dr Elisa Song explains how to wash hands that right way and has helpful videos to show kids too.
Avoid touching your face – some studies have shown that people sitting at a desk touch their faces between 3-50 times an hour and most of us do it without even realising it. It’s important to remind kids to be mindful of not touching surfaces and then touching their face. Why? Because viruses can enter the body through our mouths, noses and eyes.
Stay home when you’re not well – just stay home! Simple.
Keep your distance – this is being referred to as social distancing and means keeping people apart from one another – preferably by 6 feet. This feels impractical in many situations, which is why large gatherings and sporting events have been cancelled and schools are being closed. We’re just doing our best and dramatically reducing our outings. Try to limit face to face meetings – I had a naturopath appointment yesterday and did it by phone rather than going into the clinic. Use Zoom or Skype for work meetings. If your job allows for it, work from home. Order groceries online.
Irrigate your nose – Dr Elisa Song, Holistic Pediatrician, says we don’t know if nasal irrigation helps specifically with COVID-19 but we do know that it can be a great preventative measure for respiratory illness in general. Dr Song reports that “One study found that people who did preventive daily nasal irrigation had significantly fewer episodes of upper respiratory symptoms, shorter symptom duration and fewer days with nasal symptoms compared to those who did not irrigate their nose daily.” My husband uses the sinus rinse Neilmed and loves it. I wish I could do it, but it’s too much for me and I’m going to try a Neti Pot. For kids, Neti Pots can be a great option and Mama Natural has a video on how to do it here. Also for children (and grown-ups), there is a gentle saline nasal spray Xlear, with xylitol and grapefruit seed extract, both of which have antimicrobial properties.
Stay hydrated – staying hydrated is so important (and easy!) to maintain optimal health and immunity as well as keeping the mucous membranes in your nose moist so that they’re able to do their job of protecting you from foreign invaders.
How to strengthen your immune system
I published a super-comprehensive article a couple of weeks ago about how to How to Keep Your Family Healthy (And Recover Faster) From Colds and Flu. Have a read as I share our family’s favourite strategies and supplements to fend off colds and flu.
To list a few here and after speaking to my naturopath yesterday we are focusing on the following:
Vitamin C – My husband and I are taking 4000mg of vitamin C daily and our son is taking 1000mg. If you decide to use a high dose of Vitamin C, reduce it if you see any gastrointestinal symptoms. Also, look at dietary ways to increase vitamin C – foods that are high in vitamin C include acerola cherries, kiwi fruit, rosehips, sweet yellow peppers, lemons, oranges, parsley, kale and broccoli. And as all mums know – Elderberry syrup is a wonderful and tasty source of vitamin C.
Vitamin D – Many people believe that rates of colds and flu increase over the winter months because of the widespread deficiency of Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 increases our body’s production of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial compound that helps to fight viral and bacterial infections. Studies have shown that people supplemented with adequate levels of Vitamin D3 during the cold and flu season had significantly lower rates of colds and flu. A maintenance dose of 1000IU of Vitamin D3 per 25 pounds of body weight is recommended by the Vitamin D Council (the dosage may be higher in people with Vitamin D deficiency – a great reminder to get a simple blood test to check your status!).
Zinc – Zinc is known to play a central role in the healthy functioning of the immune system, and zinc-deficiency can increase susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of white blood cells such as neutrophils and natural killer cells. Supplementing with just 15mg of zinc per day in adults has been found to improve our immune cells’ ability to ward off infection.
St. Francis Deep Immune for Kids and Adults – The ultimate immune formula for the whole family. (with both adult and child options). Made with a powerful complement of adaptogenic herbs, you’ll always find this item at our home. Here it is for kids and for adults.
Quercetin – Quercetin, a bioflavonoid or pigment derived from plants is being tested in clinical trials in a joint effort between Canadian and Chinese researchers. Results will be a long time off but there is hope that Quercitin may act as a broad-spectrum antiviral. If you’re interested to learn more, here in this article on Macleans Canada.
Get outside into nature – while we want to avoid crowded indoor spaces, getting outside into nature so important for our (and our kids’) mental and emotional health during this crisis. Go for a hike in the forest. A play at the beach. Fly a kite. Get your hands dirty (and help your microbiome) in the backyard. Ground your feet to the earth. Keep your distance from others but enjoy getting outside as much as you can. Just being outside measurably lowers our stress levels within minutes and helps to keep life feeling more normal for our kids.
Exercise – Unlike our circulatory system that has our heart to pump blood around our body, the lymphatic system which is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials, doesn’t have a pump and relies on movement to keep toxins moving out of our body. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. So keep moving – ideally outdoors! And when you’re indoors – do some yoga with your kids, jump on a rebounder or play balloon tag running around the house.
Eat or drink an abundance and diversity of fruits and vegetables – eating a diverse range of colourful fruits and vegetables is vital for immune health. Consume as many varieties as you can by juicing, making smoothies, soups and salads. It’s one of the best things you can do.
Zero sugar – I’m treating this pandemic as the motivation I need to finally ditch refined sugar. I was at Costco earlier this week – stocking up on 20lbs of organic carrots! – and on the way out it struck me. While everyone was concerned about loading up on toilet paper, people still sat down and ordered their fast food (or a term I read recently – “food-like substances”). I wanted to stop and shout, “You’re assaulting your immune systems! Stop, throw that trash in the bin.” Because within 30 minutes of eating refined sugar our white blood cell’s ability to respond to germs is inhibited by 50%.
Focus on the positives
There’s no getting around it – life, for all of us, is going to look a little different for…a little while. But there’s always a silver lining and as the captain’s of our family’s ships, it’s our job to find it.
So, for our highly sensitive, curious and observant six-year-old, we’re trying to curate his exposure to the COVID-19 news, especially the political aspects and the fact that people are dying. What we are doing is explaining to him that there is a virus – just like cold and flu viruses, but more contagious – and so life needs to change to protect ourselves and others. We’re washing our hands more, we’re not going to some of the places we usually go, and we’re skipping the chocolate croissants!
As parents, we need to remain calm and be the grounding force within our families. We don’t need to panic (that doesn’t help!) but we do need to remain informed and take steps to minimise the spread of the disease.
Here are some helpful, non-alarmist, practical articles I’ve read over the past week that may help you too:
Coronavirus with a baby: what you need to know to prepare and respond on The Conversation.
Within the article, this graph shows, in red, how cases can spike when our societies don’t take proper + timely (early) precautions—and how, in grey, we can flatten the curve by being proactive.
2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) by HealthyChildren.org – great article outlining the symptoms and risks of coronavirus and how to talk to children about it.
I’m an epidemiologist. Here’s what I told my friends about the coronavirus and COVID-19. This is a brilliant, common sense article by Epidemiologist, Malia Jones. Highly recommend reading.
I just discovered this website – Healthy Kids Happy Kids, by Dr Elisa Song, Holistic Pediatrician – and love it. Check out this highly comprehensive article, Coronavirus (COVID-19): What a Pediatrician Wants You to Know
What to do with kids at home, indefinitely?
And finally, with kids at home over a not-so-normal-spring-break or cancelled classes here are some ideas for things to do:
Enrol in Outschool classes – we adore Outschool and use it all the time in our homeschooling. It’s all online and kids hop on a Zoom call and can see their teacher and other kids from around the world. They cover all ages and subjects. My six year old has done classes on amphibians, dinosaurs, oceans and seashores and more. Generally, classes are 30-60 minutes. This can also be a great way for kids to stay connected with friends they’re not seeing or cousins on the other side of the world. Use this link to get USD$20 credit for your first class (most single classes we’ve done are USD$10 or under).
Keep it simple – get outside, go for walks and bike rides, do puzzles, read books, watch movies, play, break apart and redo LEGO.
Embrace Cosmic Kids Yoga – all free and on Youtube, we LOVE Cosmic Kids!
Skype with family – we need to do this more at the moment…heads up to Tiny Grandma and Nanna…we’ll be calling you more!
Listen to Podcasts – my hands down favourite podcast for kids is the Big Life Podcast all about problem solving, shooting for the stars, overcoming challenges and adversity and developing a growth mindset…which brings me to…
Big Life Kids – the creators of the Big Life Podcast are one of my favourite parenting resources. They have loads (and I mean loads) of printables for little kids through to teenagers on growth mindset, kindness, empathy, self-esteem, resilience and more. Check them out here. And of course their iconic Big Life Journal.
Sign up to Audible – we love Audible and listening to audiobooks for kids. We also get half a dozen free audiobooks every month through our local library so check if yours does too to help make it more economical.
Join our Facebook group: I will keep this post updated so come and join the conversation in our Facebook Group and share your experience and ideas and get support from our community.
Connect: And this wouldn’t be a Raised Good post if I didn’t say focus on connection. Enjoy this time with your kids. Focus on family and on being together. Look at this time as a compulsory but temporary Hygge. Maybe this challenge will help us make new habits to simplify, to focus on nourishing our relationships as well as our bodies.
With you on this journey mama!