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Save These 7 Health Tips Because Flu Season Is Here, People

Photograph by Twenty20

The leaves are changing, the nights are getting cooler and all your favorite pumpkin spice foods are back. Fall is finally here. And, while right now that means apple picking and corn mazes, soon enough it will mean tissues and chicken noodle soup, because cold and flu season seems to start right around the time the first ornamental scarecrow goes up.

Don’t worry, though — we have a few tricks that may help both you and your kids.

Cough like the Count.

Also called the Vampire Cough and the Dracula Cough, it's a method of coughing (and sneezing) into your elbow instead of your hands, which helps to reduce the spread of germs. Do a couple of dry runs with fake coughs and sneezes. You can make it into a game with your kids by turning into the Count from "Sesame Street." One, one, one sneeze — Ah Ah Ah!

Don't wait until they get sick to teach them a new skill.

Don't wait until your little one is feeling under the weather to start teaching them how to wash their hands or blow their nose. The time to practice blowing their nose is before their nose is sore and uncomfortable (and also before you end up covered in the extra snot that didn’t make it into the tissue). As for hand-washing, it’s never too early to start practicing. Teach them to scrub while singing the ABCs while ensuring they get between their fingers and the tops of their hands.

Let’s be real, Mom, as soon as you heard that first sniffle, you knew you were going to be next.

Make sure your medicine cabinet is up to date.

You can avoid a last-minute trip to the drug store by taking stock of your medicine cabinet ahead of time. Now's the time to check the expiration dates and toss old medications. (Just be sure you are following your local procedures for disposing of unused medications.) Verify that you have at least half a bottle left of your fever reducer of choice. This is also a great time to check if your childproof caps are on tight and that everything that needs to be out of reach is still inaccessible.

Where's your barf bucket?

No home to little children should be without an easily accessible bucket. By "easily accessible," I mean one you can grab as soon as you hear the first, "My tummy hurts." Trust me on this one, you don't want to waste precious seconds buying or prepping a bucket when you need it most.

Speaking of stomach viruses ...

Getting an extra mattress protector for my bed has been the best decision I've ever made. Between potty training accidents and stomach viruses, we have had our fair share of cleanups in bed. Being able to strip the bed and immediately throw another clean mattress protector, sheets and everything back on it while I sort everyone out has been a lifesaver. It has given me the extra time I needed to take care of my kids without having to immediately dive into the laundry.

You are what you eat.

Obviously, the preference is that your kids don't get sick in the first place, but if they do, there are foods you can eat that may help lessen the severity and duration of your cold. Dr. Amy Baxter, a pediatric emergency physician and pain researcher, recommends consuming acidophilus, which is the "friendly bacteria" found in yogurt, twice a day. She told Mom.me that probiotics "significantly reduced cough, fever, snotty nose … you name it." And it's not just effective in children ages 3 to 5 — parents can also take advantage of this (because let’s be real, Mom, as soon as you heard that first sniffle, you knew you were going to be next).

Vitamic C is a cold and flu season must.

An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, but an orange a day might help fight the flu. Dr. Baxter says a high dose vitamin C (1 gram per day) may help to decrease the likelihood of catching the flu. She says that according to a 2013 Cochrane review, 1 to 2 grams of vitamin C a day may shorten the duration of your child’s cold by 18 percent.

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