Children tend to be walking Petri dishes, so it’s tough keeping germs at bay. When one of your kids gets sick, the whole family goes down like a stack of dominoes with the same illness. Beyond vigorous hand washing, religious application of hand sanitizer, and living in a bubble, here are 10 simple ways to stay healthy during cold and flu season that may have never crossed your mind.

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Strategic Seasonings like Turmeric and Garlic
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Think of food as your body’s fuel. We all know an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but there are countless other foods that boost immunity. Season tried and true dishes with turmeric, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and add garlic to your kiddo’s favorite mashed potatoes recipe as an effective way to keep her healthy. If you can get your hands on one, scientists recently declared that Japanese superfood pickled turnip wards off the flu virus!

Limit Refined Sugar
This may be tricky with all the sweets that run rampant around the holidays, but consuming an excess of refined sugar depresses the immune system, along with a whole host of other negative side effects. Curb your child’s sweet tooth with clementines, blueberries, and red grapes. In addition to being full of vitamins and nutrients, blueberries and red grapes also boost the body’s immune function.

Hands Down
Why is it that kids are forever touching their eyes, nose and mouth, which are all direct portals for germs to enter the body? Encourage your kids to keep their hands away from their face as much as possible. Doing so will go a long way in protecting them from getting sick since hands are typically ripe with germs picked up from door knobs, school desks, and just about any surface you can think of.

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Boost Immune System with Elderberry
Kids will happily drink up a small serving of sweet elderberry (use as directed), and in turn they’ll reap the benefits of the inherent flavonoids that flight inflammation and heighten immunity. Studies have shown that elderberry is even effective against the flu, and if taken while ill, elderberry may shorten the duration one is sick.

Take a Multivitamin with Vitamin D
People often experience a vitamin D deficiency during the cold winter months when sun exposure is lessened. Administer a multivitamin that contains an appropriate dosage of vitamin D. Science Daily notes, “Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses and… without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system — T cells — will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body.”

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Hydration
Drink lots of fluids to flush germs out of the body. Most people wait until they’re thirsty before getting a drink. By then, your body is already signaling dehydration. Give everyone in your family a reusable water bottle filled with water and maybe a splash of juice for flavor, and have them sip from it all day long.

Clean House
Aside from keeping your home as tidy as possible, keep high traffic areas clean and disinfected. Replace kitchen sponges weekly, sanitize door knobs, computer keyboards, remote controls, stair rails and light switches regularly.

Leave Shoes at the Door
This tip is especially important if you have a baby or crawler in your home who is scooting across the floor on all fours or perched close to the ground in a bouncy chair. A crawling baby gets germs and toxins from the floor all over his hands, which he then puts in his mouth. Pesticides, carcinogens and lead are all unwittingly brought into your home via the bottom of people’s shoes. Having everyone remove their shoes at the door is one of the easiest and most effective ways to lessen exposure to detrimental toxins that break down the body.

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Get Enough Sleep and Exercise
Try to get an ample amount of sleep, as a well-rested, refreshed body is less likely to succumb to illness. Make exercise a priority. A family bike ride, a yoga DVD on a Saturday morning, jog with your dog instead of walking him… keeping fit keeps germs at bay.

Get Plenty of Fresh Air and Avoid Contaminated Indoor Air
Avoid indoor kid-centric cafes and play spaces like the plague during cold and flu season. Remember, most people are contagious before they even realize they’re sick—so Bobby’s germs are all over that ball pit even before he comes down with the flu. Library story times held in small unventilated rooms are also a recipe for illness. Opt for a visit to the park or zoo in outdoor fresh air instead, even if it means bundling up.

Note: Check with your health care provider before adding any supplements or vitamins to your family’s regimen.

What do you do to keep your family healthy during cold and flu season? Share your tips in the comments below!

— Beth Shea

Photos courtesy of Trisha, Emil_95, Ran Yaniv Hartstein, and Guido via Flickr