5 ways to prepare your family for the colder months

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As the nights draw in earlier, the temperature drops that little bit further and jumpers and thick scarves adorn every body, there's no doubt that winter is well on the way.

So how can we best prepare our families for the cold months ahead?

Preventing and minimising spread of colds and flu and other germs

With the winter months comes the germs, and while there's no guaranteed method of avoiding them, there are ways that you can try to prevent both catching them and spreading them.

Ensuring all of your child's immunisations are up to date is one of the most important things to do to minimise the chances or impact of illness on them. If you haven't already done so, consider getting them a flu vaccine this year as well. Flu vaccines are recommended for children over the age of six months, and have been safely used in Australia for many years. Children under the age of eight will require two doses, at least four weeks apart, in the first year they receive the vaccine. Only one dose per year is required for children aged nine or over.

If you find yourself around others who are suffering with flu like symptoms, avoid close contact with them, and be sure to wash your hands regularly with soap and water.  

This is similarly the case if you are suffering yourself, so as to avoid the spread of germs to other members in your family. You should also ensure that you cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and throw all used tissues into the bin.

Over-the-counter medicines may help to relieve symptoms of these winter bugs, but for children always speak with a pharmacist to make sure they are both suitable and safe for use.

Preparing nutritious immunity boosting meals

Believe it or not, winter is actually a great time to get lots of vegetables into the family – especially those littler, more fussier members. Soups, stews and casseroles are not only fantastic warm comfort foods, but also a great way to conduct a bit of vegie smuggling.

Foods that are brimming with vitamin A or beta-carotene – which our body converts into vitamin A – are the perfect addition to any meal to help the body fight viruses and bacteria.   

As a rule, foods that are naturally orange in colour are bursting with this goodness, so load up plates with butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes where you can.

Other immunity boosting foods that are relatively easy to disguise include leafy greens, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli and cinnamon.

Taking vitamins

Topping up your family's vitamin intake is never a bad thing, and in winter it may be particularly useful to take a multivitamin to ensure your body is getting adequate amounts of everything it needs.  

For example, during the winter months our vitamin D levels, which are naturally produced by the human body when exposed to direct sunlight, may be lower.

Similarly, our body may need other vitamins as an extra boost to help fight off infection and viruses if we are not able to eat properly due to illness.

Keeping kids active

Being stuck inside the house for days on end when it's cold and wet can be soul destroying for everyone, but it doesn't mean that all activities have to stop – just that you might have to be a bit more creative.

Plan things for the cold months ahead by putting together a 'bored jar'. Get all the family involved in putting in suggestions of activities that can be done in or around the home that can keep everyone out of mischief.  

Suggestions may include making your own play dough, having a dance off competition, organizing an indoor scavenger hunt, painting and decorating, having an 'odd jobs' day, creating a time capsule or making a family tree.

For those lesser creative types, look up local indoor activities or classes that are happening for the winter terms and get signed up in advance so as avoid missing out.

Be prepared around the home

There's nothing worse on a cold night than remembering that the warm blanket you really love is in storage, the heater no longer works and the plug on the electric blanket has snapped off.

To avoid this, start getting prepared in advance by locating all your warm possessions and winter electrics now. Wash and air all blankets ready for the cold nights, and check that all your heaters and electric blankets are in working order and safe.

And talking of safe, it's also a good time to check your fire alarms are working and no batteries or systems need replacing. Then you and your family will be able to enjoy a safe, snug and healthy winter this season.