Ten Tips for Keeping Your Children Healthy This Winter

So often we hear parents on the playground complaining that their kid has yet another runny nose. Often that statement is followed by, "I'm sure my kid got it from that other kid in her class that had a running nose last week..."

While that may be true, the more important question to contemplate is, why might your kid have been susceptible to the runny nose kid from last week in the first place? There is an abundance of preventative measures you can apply to your children's everyday life that will build their immunity, decrease mucus--where many illnesses and bacteria grow and breed--and make your life less about nose blowing and trips to the pharmacy, and more about what your child loves to do, PLAY!

Here are a few practical tips for keeping you and your family unclogged and feeling vibrant for 2007 and beyond:

1. Eat more wholesome snacks.

Instead of feeding your kids processed prepackaged foods high in additives, preservatives, sugar, salt, fat and dairy, all of which are hard for your child to process fully and create excess mucus, try giving them more whole foods such as fruit, veggies and grains.

While the change in diet will be tough at first, you will find more success and less whining from your child if you integrate whole foods slowly into your child's breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and make it fun.

2. Be a good example.

Further reinforce eating more wholesomely by being a good role model. Children love to imitate their parents. If you tell your child to eat an apple for a snack, but then you have chips, they are not going to be happy. But if you eat an apple for a snack, and practice what you preach, your child will be more likely to eat one as well.

The key is teaching good eating habits from the beginning and exposing your children to the joys of eating well.

3. Eat more basil.

Basil is a delicious, powerful herb that has been used for centuries to counteract and regulate mucus production. Eating fresh basil may be too strong for your child, but there are many ways to incorporate it into your home cooked meals.

Add fresh chopped basil to your tomato sauces, put pesto on your kids pizza and make a game out of how green it is, or food process it into soups and stews.

4. Say no to ice.

Seems like a nit picky detail, but it is really key to building immunity, supporting sound digestion and decreasing mucus buildup. Ice cold drinks straight from the refrigerator are very jarring for your body to handle. Our bodies by nature are set at around 98 degrees. When your child guzzles down a cold drink that is much colder than 98 degrees, their body goes into shock mode.

Over taxing their bodies with cold beverages makes their systems work in overdrive, lessening their immune system's chances of fighting off the germ he or she picked up at school. You have to choose your battles wisely!

5. Get out and play!

Encouraging your child to go outside and play for at least 20 minutes after school is a great way to get them fresh air and get their bodies moving. The more kids sit around playing video games all afternoon, the less they activate their lymphatic system which is responsible for moving toxins out of the body. Also, the more they run out excess energy, the better they will sleep at night!

6. Bundle up.

This may sound like your grandmother talking, but we've all seen how many kids go out to play under dressed and exposed to the elements. On colder days insist on wearing hats and mittens to keep your child's fragile body warm. They may say that they feel hot, but if their sweat freezes they are more likely to get cold and sick. Again, you must set a good example and do the same!

7. Stay clean with clean products.

The chemicals that we use to clean our homes and bodies are full of toxic materials. Traces of these toxins are constantly in contact with our little ones who spend the majority of their time on the floor playing. Although keeping dust and germs at bay is a good thing, sometimes the products we use actually create a different kind of harm to our children.

Opt for more natural cleaning products that are non-toxic. Over the long run you may be preventing your child from getting worse illnesses later on in life.

8. Wash your child's hair before dinner.

Many of us are guilty of giving our children baths and washing their hair right before putting them to bed. Having your child go to bed with wet hair, especially in the winter, weakens their immunity and often leaves them stuffy and clogged in the morning. Try to rearrange your bath time to before dinner, that way there is plenty of time for hair to dry.

9. Never point a fan at your child.

Kids that like a fan on at night while sleeping tend to be more susceptible to illness than those who do not. Having the wind from a fan on your child's face blows dust and airborne particles towards them, and these particles love to stick to mucus.

Wind also causes more production of mucus because their body is trying to defend itself from particles being blown at it. If your child insists on a fan, point it away from them and then turn it off once they are asleep.

10. More sleep.

Getting your child to bed at a reasonable time is very important. Most kids don't get the nine to 10 hours of sleep that they need to rejuvenate and restore their systems. Sleep is when we detoxify and recharge ourselves so our systems can properly perform the jobs they are supposed to do.

Try not to stimulate your children by feeding them too many sweets or letting them watch TV at night. Instead, give them soothing and calming foods and activities to help lull them into a long restful sleep.

Medication has its place in maintaining good health for your child, but the old adage that prevention is the best medicine is more true than ever. It's important to be aware of the things you can do to help your family be happy and stay healthy by being proactive. Looking at your daily habits is a great place to start. Having a more child-like approach will make being healthy more fun!

Foxnews.com Health contributor Kyle Ellen Nuse contributed to this story

Click here to check out Dr. Manny's book The Check List (Harper Collins, 2007)

Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at FOXNews.com, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.