We spend more time indoors during fall and winter, which means everyone in the family is at greater risk for bringing home plenty of germs. Not surprisingly, the common cold is a leading cause of missed days from school. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 million school days are lost annually in the United States because of the common cold.
But fear not, there are plenty of supplements we can take to boost our immune system before we get sick and even while we are sick.
The most important thing we can do now as the cold season starts is to make sure we have our medicine cabinet all stocked up with what we need to boost our health.
But first things first, let go over some basic but necessary information to keep our medicine cabinet safe for everyone in the family.
4 Essential tips for a safe winter medicine cabinet:
Store your medications in a cool, dry storage place
Bathrooms can get very humid and moist and this is where most people keep their medications. The problem with this is that many products degrade when exposed to humidity and warm temperatures.
Store your medications in other areas of your home that stay cool and dry, like a closet, kitchen cabinets or your bedroom.
Check expiration dates
Medications are not something we use on a regular basis, which means it’s really easy not to notice when they expire. Take this time to go over all your medications and toss any expired products. Many pharmacies offer safe medication disposal for your convenience.
Safely secure all medications and supplements if there are young children in the house
This is obvious but sometimes we forget how agile and sneaky children can be. If the cabinet where you’re storing medications can be reached if a child stands on a chair, then that is not a safe place to store medications.
My children love to push chairs in our kitchen to use them as a way to climb on the kitchen counters and reach items that are really high up. That is why we don’t store medications in our kitchen, and store them on the upper shelf of our closet.
If you don’t have a high enough place to store your medications, get a child lock and keep the medicines locked inside a cabinet that’s not within easy reach.
Carefully review all labels
Now is a good time to remind yourself of any precautions! Many over-the-counter (OTC) drugs have warnings regarding their use in those who have serious medical conditions such as heart, kidney or liver disease.
Not only that, but many medications have side effects that we should be aware of. Recently a friend of ours wound up with brain damage due to a medication she took for an UTI, a medication that’s used widely amongst women. Now her life will never be the same for something that could have been so easily taken care of. So please, always read the labels and make sure the side effects are something you can live with because you never know when you will have a side effect.
Understand dosing instructions
This is very important when it comes to children medications. Some products for children are dosed by weight and others by age. Make sure you keep the dosage instructions with all your medications and always check with your doctor to make sure that medication is safe for your child.
5 must-have supplements every parent needs in their medicine cabinet
Now that we have gone over the basics, let’s talk about what we should have in our winter medicine cabinet. Please keep in mind I am not a doctor and none of this should be taken as medical advice. These are just recommendations based on what we do in our home and that you should run by your doctor to make sure they’re the right fit for you and your family.
For bruises and muscle strains
While bruises and strains happen all year, not only in winter, they happen quite a bit. That’s why, keeping something natural that can help with this is important.
Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that can be used for treating minor bruises and muscle strains. It can reduce pain and swelling and speed healing. Arnica comes in tablets and gel form, you can take the tablets if the pain is more intense or rub the gel if your pain is localized in a specific area. We mostly use the gel with our children.
Also, keep a flexible cold pack handy to manage pain and swelling from an acute minor injury such as a strain or sprain.
For the common cold
You may have heard about black elderberry before and that’s because it’s a must-have during the cold season!
Black Elderberry contains flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have a remarkable ability to stimulate the body’s immune system. Black elderberries have nearly double the amount of anthocyanins than is found in any other fruit!
My favorite black elderberry supplement is from Sambucol because the doses are standardized, which means you know what’s on the label, it’s what’s on the bottle. Plus, all the studies done on black elderberry have been made with the specific black elderberry that Sambucol uses and since there are several types of elderberries, I like to stick to the one backed-up by science.
My children take black elderberry daily, and at the sign of the first symptoms I start giving them a higher dose, as instructed by our pediatrician.
Sambucol comes in several presentations:
- Black elderberry gummies: they’re very tasty, vegetarian, only contain 1 gram of sugar, and no artificial flavors or colors.
- Kids black elderberry syrup: we use this one just like the gummies, as a daily supplement and up the dose once the kids are showing symptoms of sickness.
- Black elderberry syrup: this is the one my husband and I take on a regular basis and especially when we get sick or when the kids are sick.
- Sambucol Black Elderberry Cold & Flu Relief: This is a homeopathic remedy with black elderberry. Once we get sick, we keep on taking the black elderberry syrup along with these tablets.
- Sambucol Pastilles: These are great when you have a sore throat and they taste yummy!
For sore throats
Buckwheat honey is great for managing a sore throat! It contains antioxidants and nutrients that help speed healing. Plus, it also lubricates and soothes a sore throat. A teaspoon of honey first thing in the morning or when your throat is feeling itchy and dry makes your throat feels so much better.
Buckwheat honey can be given to children age one year and over and is available in most health food stores, so it’s a great alternative for cough medicine.. If you can’t find buckwheat honey, try Manuka honey which is also great for speeding up the healing process.
For eczema/skin rash
Winter can really dry out your skin and flare up skin issues like rashes and eczema. Oatmeal baths can help relieve dry, itchy skin! Our favorite way to make an oatmeal bath is by following this recipe with powdered goat milk and rose petal but you don’t have to follow that recipe to get the benefits for your skin.
You can simply use colloidal oatmeal in your bath to treat your skin. Colloidal oatmeal is regular (not instant) oatmeal that has been turned into a fine powder. You can do this by putting the oatmeal in a food processor or blender and grinding it until you can’t see any oatmeal pieces and all that there is left is a fine powder.
To use: add 2 cups of ground colloidal oatmeal to a tub of warm water (hot water can further dry out and irritate skin). Sit in this amazing soak for as long as you’d like but at least 15 minutes.
Then apply a moisturizer with soothing and hydrating ingredients such as vitamin E, aloe and lavender. I also like to keep a bottle of Vitamin E oil and add it to my body lotion on those days that my skin is feeling very dry. Simply put the body lotion in your hand, add a couple of drops of Vitamin E, and apply all over your body.
For nausea, upset stomach
Studies show that the very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols found in ginger can help relieve motion sickness, dizziness, nausea and gas, and soothe the intestinal tract.
Ginger is also great at boosting your immune system – it’s has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and also as a cough suppressant, which makes it great to take during a cold.
So there you have it, a few essentials you need to have in your natural medicine cabinet. Did you already have some of these? Or is there anything we missed that you think should be mentioned? Let us know in the comments below.
Related: If you’re interested in seeing a full detailed list of what supplements my children take, check out this post.