Ironically, despite all these precautions, it's not uncommon for them to get sick anyway. However, Debra Lynn Dadd, one of the world's leading experts on chemical toxicity and author of Home Safe Home, says that cold and flu season may be intensified by exposure to toxic chemicals in our everyday lives.
And even worse, these chemicals may actually cause cold and flu-like systems.
A healthy immune system recognizes foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria, and fights them off. Unfortunately, our bodies are bombarded with toxic chemicals on a daily basis that leave our immune system compromised and vulnerable to infection.
Plastics, pesticides and pollutants of all kinds are found in most consumer products, and our exposure to them can severely damage our immune systems. According to Dadd, there are so many toxic chemicals that can weaken the immune system that they're given a special name: immunotoxicants.
On the other hand, sometimes what may seem like a cold or flu may actually be chemical poisoning. For example, during the winter, many people turn on their gas heat. Exposure to combustion byproducts from burning gas can result in flu symptoms, says Dadd, symptoms not relieved by taking cold or flu medications.
In order to boost the immune system and to protect one's health all winter, Dadd recommends five simple things to do to eliminate immunotoxicants from the home:
· Open a window: While the tendency is to keep the windows closed during the winter due to the cold, it's a good idea to open one every now and then to let any toxic fumes from heaters out and fresh air in.
· Avoid disinfectants: It's natural to reach for a can of aerosol disinfectant and spray it everywhere to protect against colds and flu. But disinfectants contain many immunotoxicants. These toxic chemicals reduce the body's ability to fight off infection from the germs they're killing. Better to strengthen the immune system and kill germs with hot water or tea tree oil.
· Eliminate nonstick cookware: A study from the Environmental Working Group, through West Virginia University, found that subjects with a higher level in their blood of a chemical found in Teflon had lower levels of a key protein that helps keep the immune system strong. For better health, try cast iron, clay, porcelain enamel, glass or one of the new, safer "green pans."
· Remove permanent markers: These contain many immunotoxicants. Choose water-based markers instead.
· Sleep on untreated cotton or linen sheets: All polyester/ cotton and permanent-press cotton sheets are treated with a formaldehyde finish that can't be removed and that can cause runny noses, itchy eyes and other cold or flu-like symptoms.