Hi, my name is Ellen Martino. I'm an integrative health coach and I'm here today to talk about how we can keep our families healthy in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Let's start with some facts. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness whose symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. It spreads primarily from person to person and people are most contagious when they are most symptomatic. The incubation period for COVID-19 is anywhere from two to 14 days. The average seems to be around five to seven days, so if you have been around someone who's been diagnosed with COVID-19 or if you've traveled to an area where there's been a local outbreak of cases, you want to be particularly aware of how you're feeling in the two weeks following that exposure. Let's talk a little bit about what we can do to reduce our risk for contracting COVID-19 and how we can help our kids develop good habits to protect themselves as well.
First and foremost, stop touching your face. Our eyes, nose and mouth are prime spots for the virus to enter our body and our hands are really good carriers for the virus. This is tough for adults and kids to do, so that leads to our second point. Wash your hands well and do it often. Teach your kids to lather up and scrub for 20 seconds. That's the amount of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice or have your kids sing the ABC song. Get creative, sing whatever you like or whatever song they like. Just be sure to get the front and back of your hands. Teach them to interlace their fingers to get in between their fingers. Don't forget your thumbs and don't forget under your nails. Rinse and then dry your hands well with a clean towel or a disposable paper towel. Teaching kids this simple habit can significantly cut down on their risk of contracting a variety of illnesses that are floating around their day care or their school.
Hand sanitizer will work to reduce germs on your hands if you don't have access to soap and running water, but please be careful about young children having access to hand sanitizer since it can be harmful if it's swallowed. Once children are old enough, having a little bottle of hand sanitizer hooked on their backpack might be a nice way for them to feel in control of their hand hygiene. As best you can, avoid touching high touch public services like doorknobs, light switches, elevator buttons, things like that. Use your elbow to hit the elevator button and your foot to open doors. When you do touch public services, go back to the first two bullets on this chart. Don't touch your face and wash your hands and when you are at work or at home, be sure to wipe down all high touch surface areas with a disinfecting spray. That includes things like tables, doorknobs, light switches, cabinet handles desks, toilets, faucets, remote controls, phones, tablets. You get the idea, clean everything and clean it often.
You can ask your child's teachers if they're using disinfecting wipes in the classroom as well, and you can find a list of household disinfectants that are approved by the EPA by checking out the Environmental Protection Agency's registered antimicrobial products for use against COVID-19 and you'll find that on their website epa.gov.
Another way to avoid getting sick is to do your best to stay away from people who are exhibiting symptoms and if someone in your house is sick, try to keep them isolated as best you can. Remind them to sneeze or cough into their elbow, provide them with a lined garbage can to throw out their tissues and don't share drinking glasses, utensils, bedding or towels and be sure to wash all of those items frequently.
There are a lot of things we can do every day to help reduce our risk of disease and live healthier longer. When we feed our body real whole foods, we give it a variety of nutrients it needs to function. We get vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, which become building blocks for us to create and support a strong and healthy immune system. One serving of kiwifruit has a full day supply of vitamin C and it's fun for kids to eat too. You just cut off the top, give them a spoon and let them scoop out the fruit. Hemp seeds are a good source of zinc and they're easy to blend into a smoothie or mix into oatmeal. That fiber that we get from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, including that oatmeal, feeds that good bacteria in our gut where most of our immune system resides, so feed your body the nutrients it needs to stay well. Then when we get a deep restful sleep and we get enough of it, our immune system benefits.
There are certain disease fighting hormones and proteins and other chemicals that are released or created while we sleep. Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Kids need more than that. Encourage your kids to create a relaxing bedtime routine so their body gets the message that it's time for bed. Lead by example and quit using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed and maintain a consistent sleep wake schedule for the whole family.
One thing that might be impacting our ability to get a good night's sleep is stress, and too much chronic stress can impact our immune system in other ways too, by increasing inflammation and by decreasing the body's lymphocytes, which are those white blood cells that help us to fight off infections. So stay calm. Kids will follow your lead. Give kids an opportunity to talk about what's causing them stress and find ways to de-stress and do it together.
Play with your kids, have a dance party or just get outside and jump rope or play basketball or walk the dog together. It will be good for your soul and your body, which takes me to the next element of self- care that can support a healthy immune system and that's to move our bodies. Exercising regularly boosts blood flow, which circulates those white blood cells throughout our body. Exercising also helps the immune system produce more of those disease fighting cells. Here's another opportunity to lead by example. When your kids see you making movement a priority, they are more likely to do the same and finally, stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Drinking plenty of water helps create lymph fluid, which is needed to help circulate those important white blood cells. And it allows your blood to deliver oxygen to yourself, which in turn helps all of your body's systems work properly.
Give your kids a reusable water bottle that they can refill throughout the day and remind them not to let anyone else drink from it. All of these self-care techniques will help to reduce your risk for contracting COVID-19 as well as many other illnesses and diseases that we may come across. So take good care of yourself so that your immune system can take good care of you. Remember to consult reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization for the most current information about COVID-19. Stay well and thanks so much for joining me today.