Cold and flu season is upon us and the average Australian family is expected to be hit with three bouts of cold and flu this season, with more than a quarter of unlucky Aussie families being hit up to seven times.
Leading nutritionist and Cenovis spokeswoman Kate Freeman has shed light on key findings from the 2017 Cenovis Immunity Index, revealing thoughts from what she found most interesting in the report to saying that a regular consumption of fresh, nutritional vegetables is the cornerstone of a healthy diet and a key to boosting immunity, especially during the winter months.
Question: What did you learn from the 2017 Cenovis Immunity Index?
Kate Freeman: I learnt from this year's Cenovis Immunity Index that colds and flus, although generally not life threatening, greatly affect the wellbeing of Australian families and add extra pressure and stress to an already busy life.
Key findings like Aussie mums losing their annual leave and fearing their husband or partner getting sick just shows how much extra pressure this kind of sickness can put on families across the nation.
Question: What results surprised you the most from the Index?
Kate Freeman: As a mum myself, I know first-hand what it's like to juggle work when you've got sick kids. I've definitely been in a situation where I've sent my child to school knowing they're not 100% well but feeling like I didn't have a choice, so I was surprised and relieved by the fact that close to half of working mums (50%) out there have done the same!
Question: How many annual leave days are Aussie working mums using to care for their sick kids?
Kate Freeman: In the report, it was revealed that most working mums use up to three annual leave days (20.3%) caring for their children who aren't well – many (11%) are using up to 10 annual leave days! A similar number of mothers (9.6%) take up to seven annual leave days, but overall, 50% of working mums are dipping into their annual leave to care for a sick child.
That's just annual leave days – when it comes to working mums using their own sick leave to stay home and care for their sick kids, the statistics are just as startling. Nine per cent of Aussie mothers have used up to 14 days sick leave, while 20% have used up to 7 sick days and a whopping 40% have used up to 3 sick days.
Question: How can mums protect their kids from colds and build their immunity against the cold/flu?
Kate Freeman: There are a number of key things that mums can do to boost their family's immune systems and protect their kids from the cold or flu. Here are my top four tips: Sleep – a lack of high quality sleep can decrease immunity. Kids, especially, need lots of sleep! At least 10 hours of sleep per night is recommended for most kids under the age of 12. Limiting screen time, having a bedtime ritual and keeping the home dimly lit after 8:00pm can help kids settle down and sleep better.
Physical activity – even though it's cold, getting outside and exercising or playing is really important for kids. Regular moderate exercise boosts your immune system and promotes long term health as well.
Nutrition - Kids' immune systems may benefit from nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc. Including foods like citrus (oranges, mandarins), green vegetables (broccoli, spinach), orange vegetables (carrots, pumpkin) and other whole foods (lean meats, seafood, legumes) into the family's diet as often as you can, daily if possible, is wonderful!
Hygiene – this one goes without saying but washing hands and keep your home clean and tidy is a must.
Question: Can you share results around how many Aussie dads stayed home with their sick kids?
Kate Freeman: For 10% of Aussie families, it's the dad that stays home with the kids while they're sick. The study also showed that 5% of Aussie mums are the primary bread winner while the father is the stay-at-home dad.
Question: Why do we fear man-flu?
Kate Freeman: Six per cent of Aussie mums say their biggest worry when they get sick is making their husband or partner sick, given the unbearable nature of the man flu. More than one in 10 (12%) of mums say man flu is harder to deal with than snot, vomit and the other unfavourable side effects of cold and flu illness in their children. Many Aussie mums (12%) fear the man flu because they worry when their children are sick, there's another person to look after in the family home as well.
Question: How can parents protect themselves when their child is sick?
Kate Freeman: Parents can protect themselves from getting sick, especially when their kids are unwell, by getting enough sleep, staying active, maintaining a high quality diet and practicing good hygiene.
Vitamin C needs to be regularly ingested long-term or prior to getting sick, to help decrease the length and severity of the cold, though it can't necessarily stop you from catching it.
Eating lots of vegetables and incorporating at least two serves of fruit daily paired with moderately exercising can help boost your immunity. Whole foods are great to eat regularly too like nuts, seeds, lean meats, whole grains and legumes.
Encouraging your kids to keep clean by washing your hands and showering as well as keeping the home tidy will aid in the prevention of spreading germs.
Question: What will you be eating, this Winter?
Kate Freeman: Chicken and vegetable soup: many whole foods that offer protein, fresh seasonal vegetables and lots of nutrition can be both comforting and delicious on a cold winter's night when you're feeling under the weather.
Chicken and vegetable pot pie: hot, delicious, comforting and packed full of nutrition – I love a great pot recipe where the oven does all the cooking!
Beef, lentil and vegetable stew: warm, filling and packed full of whole foods and vegetables, this stew is one of my yummiest dishes in the cooler months.
Spicy Mexican bowl: spicy slow cooked chicken and black beans with lots of fresh Mexican flavours is super tasty and keeps you toasty!
Interview by Brooke Hunter