What causes the rise in colds/Flu’s in the fall?

Most of us know that Flu season and cold season is during the fall, but a lot of us don’t know why it occurs every year at the same time.

As Fall nears, the season starts to change from warm sunshine to a cold and dreary place.  Meaning we get less hours of sunlight, and we get less exercise.  Therefore, we are getting less Vitamin D which in turn will start to tax our immune system.  The journal Nature Immunology provides details of the synergy between the sunshine vitamin and our adaptive immune killer T cells. Vitamin D is shown to provide the activation key that stimulates T cells into action when invaders are detected.  Maintain your vitamin D blood levels between 50 and 70 ng/ml for optimal protection.

Another common trigger is the Holidays.  The fall brings Halloween where we and our kids get lots of candy, and eat more than usual because it is Halloween. Next comes Thanksgiving, where we are overindulging with appetizers that really could be a meal in itself, and then eating a full course meal for dinner with stuffing, gravy, breads, biscuits, candied ham,  candied potatoes.  All filled with excess sugar than our bodies are used to.  And don’t forget we haven’t even gotten to dessert!   Then we have leftovers!  And just when we think we are done with the leftovers, the holiday parties start, the cookie bakes, Hanukkah, and Christmas Eve and Day.  Are you starting to understand what I am saying?  We are eating WAY more sugar than ever before.  There are actual research studies and papers showing the negative effects of sugar on our immune system.  it basically shuts our immune system down because it is so overloaded by the sugar.  The results of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) demonstrates that the amount of sugar in two sweetened beverages lowers immune response by 50% for up to five hours after drinking or eating. A diet filled with complex carbohydrates has no detrimental effect on immunity and the high nutritional content of fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds provide the building blocks required to mount a healthy attack as needed.

So what can we do about it?  Being informed that sugar, exercise, and Vitamin D all play a role in weakening our immune system is a start.  Get yourself outside as much as possible, try to exercise or do some form of vigorous activity at least an hour/day.  Start taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.  Dr. Chris and I take 4000 IU’s /day, and Harper takes a combined Fish Oil/Vitamin D3 supplement which we follow the directions on how much to give her according to weight/age.  (nordicnaturals.com)   We have found her supplement at Nature’s Nutrition, Amazon, and even diapers.com.  Next, watch what you eat.  Try not to overindulge.  If you have a problem with saying no, don’t keep it in the house.  Eat more salads with dark leafy greens (ex. spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, arugula).   Try to skip all the sugary juices, sodas, or alcoholic beverages.  Drink more water!  Be sure to wash your hands especially after using the restroom or being in any public place.  We need to start to become more proactive with our health and not wait for the symptoms to start.

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Importance of Getting Outside to PLAY

Kids today are growing up in a world of technology, and it is affecting their health.  How you may ask?  Well if you look around you can see it walking through the grocery store or mall.  No one looks up anymore.  No one speaks to one another.  Everyone, adults included, are so involved with their phones or electronic devices!  Unfortunately, not only are we increasing screen time, but we are seeing decreased play activity outdoors and lack of socialization.  Now, we are hearing a lot more diagnoses of ADHD and autism.  Scary stuff right?    The American Medical Association guidelines recommend that children ages 3-18 should be getting no more than 2 hours/day of screen time!  Today, children have way surpassed the recommendation and are spending most of their day, even at school now, in front of a screen.  Who would of thought when we were growing up that there would come a time when kids not getting outside enough would ever be a topic of conversation?  Kids are leading too structured lives with little to no time to be creative and imaginative outdoors. We need to make a change for our future, our kids future.

There is one simple answer to combat this activity deficiency, and that is to get not only our kids but ourselves outside more. There are many benefits to getting your children outside.  Not only will it give them room to play without worrying about getting the house dirty or allow them to run around uninhibited, but it will provide these benefits as well:

  1. Improved Vision – research done by Optometry and Visionary Science reported that the more time children spent outdoors increased their ability to see distances compared to children that stayed primarily indoors.
  2. Promotes Social Skills – Kids learn to take turns, share, problem solving, and motivation.
  3. Increasing attention span –  studies have shown that children with ADHD had far less symptoms when they were given the chance to play outdoors, and had more outdoor activity.  The more active the child the less the ADHD symptoms appeared.
  4. Reduces Stress – I am sure you have all experienced the stress relief being outdoors gives us, especially after a long day at work.  I always look forward to that first breath of fresh air and instant relaxation when I leave the office.  One author states that some studies, “…also support the theory that green spaces might help restore children’s ability to focus their attention, thereby bolstering their cognitive resources by allowing neural inhibitory mechanisms to rest and recover from use.”
  5. Provides Vitamin D – although it is tough here in the Northeast, especially in the winter months.  Any time outside spent in the sunlight helps your body naturally produce the Vitamin D it needs to function properly.

One thing you may be thinking is how do I pry my kids away from the screen?  If you children see you being active, it is only natural for your children to follow.  One way to deter screen time is to keep a basket of toys by the backdoor and every time they go to pick up their IPAD, watch television, play video games, or go on the computer take one of the activities out and head outdoors.  9 times out of 10 your children will follow because they want to hang out with you!

Another way to get the kids outdoors more would be to take them out of the house and to a local park.  Some parks are great to play on the swingset, but others are great for Hiking!  If you are looking to try out hiking for the first time try Cattus Island’s blue trail.  It is a very simple hike and it gets you all outdoors! Allaire state park is also a great place to go and explore!  Here is a list of local parks in the area and how close they are to our office:

  • Wind Ward Beach Park – 3.5 miles
  • Mantoloking Bridge County Park – 3.3 miles
  • Cattus Island Park – 6.9 miles
  • Silverton Park – 3.9 miles
  • Castle Park – 6.6 miles
  • Allaire State Park – 15 miles

You can also take the kids to the beach or boardwalk which is just a quick 10 minute ride from our office.  Even during the winter months, it is always found to find treasures on the beach and make a game out of it! Let your kids use their imagination and grow outside of the classroom!

Do yourself and your child a favor, and get off those electronics and get some fresh air!