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It’s that time of year where it seems inevitable the kids will get sick.

 photo courtesy Lynn Gardner via Flickr

But it doesn’t hurt to try to stave it off with some tried and true methods. What’s your favourite?

1. Ginger

Luckily we have a juicer at home, so I’ve been dosing my whole family with my quick carrot-apple-ginger standby for weeks now. But when every child around you has a runny nose, a daily cup of warm “ginger elixir” can be just as effective: Chop one or two “pinky” sized pieces of ginger into small pieces and boil in three to four cups of water. Add a few cloves of garlic or a pinch of cayenne for extra oomph. Pour a cup of your elixir tea, and make it palatable with fresh lemon and honey.

2. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids

Reach for the orange veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes and even pumpkin. The beta-carotene increases the effectiveness of infection-fighting cells in your body. The less cooked your orange veggies are, the better: try steaming chunks of carrot, yam or pumpkin. Or slice up sweet potatoes, toss in a little oil, a dash of salt and paprika, and bake for 15 minutes in a cast-iron pan. Non-orange sources of beta-carotene include spinach, kale, thyme, turnip greens, broccoli, squash and cilantro. Cayenne is another great source of beta-carotene and Vitamin C, and also induces sweating, important in the immune response.

Before a cold takes you out, take your family out for roti: if you’re in Toronto, find the one closest to your doorstep here. Both The Roti Hut in Scarborough and Bacchus Roti in the west end make pumpkin roti to die for. Sneak a few drops off pepper sauce in, wash it down with ginger beer and you’re off to the races.

3. Humidity

It’s the time of year when we turn on the furnance. The temperature dips a bit and suddenly shops and streetcars and movie theatres all have the heat cranked. Not only does that make you feel miserable, it’s even harder on dry nasal passages and scratchy throats. A humidifier will not only help your family sleep better at night, it’ll keep a small case of sniffles from getting full-blown. No need to break the bank: there are travel humifiers that work with a bottle of water and personal-sized humidifiers for less than $25. Put one near your child’s bed and everyone will get a better night’s sleep.

4. Rest

Don’t wait until evidence they’re really sick to start slowing things down. While it may be tempting to conclude, ” it’s just a runny nose” and carry on with your schedule as planned, it’ll cost you more in the end. Rest is key to a strong immune system and a healthy household. Take a cue from the little ones: at the first sign of listlessness or sniffles, drop an evening’s activity and put them to bed an hour earlier, or bring them tea and encourage them to read with a blanket.

5. Do What Your Mom Did

I’m Eastern European and so I have an almost mystical faith in the power of beets and “sweating it out.” In my family, the first sign of a sneeze meant you were immediately wrapped in a scarf, sometimes two (one for the neck, one for the lower back). My Macedonian friend swears by Greek Mountain Tea. It’s always gratifying to find evidence these things work – and anyway, sometimes, just doing that thing that your mom did (and your mom’s mom did) is instantly comforting.

What are your traditions? Share them in the comments and help keep us all healthier this cold and flu season!

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