After spending much of the winter sick in bed, it’s time for the Kelly family to take some proactive measures to stay well. Eve can’t take any more time off. The housework piles up, the kids need help with school, and hubby needs his wifey. The house just doesn’t work when Mom’s sick. So, 2010 will be the year of no sickness. Or at least some proactive measures will be taken to fend off the flus and colds that are ravaging us.

Knowledge is power, they say, and the first person I turned to was my old pal Bernice.

“Last winter I started giving my children Sambucol black elderberry syrup [Sambucol Black Elderberry Syrup — $16.89 for eight ounces at vitacost.com] along with their morning vitamins,” she advised.

“There was a noticeable difference in good health. Some of the other brands of elderberry don’t taste as good, so it’s harder for the kids to take them. All the kids will take Sambucol. It also comes in a tablet form [Sambucol Cold & Flu Relief — $9.99 for 30 tablets at Henry’s], which is great for my husband. I’ll leave a packet of tablets at his desk, and he takes them during the day while he works.”

I did a little of my own research on black elderberry. “Studies have shown that elderberries are unusually rich in the phytochemicals known as flavonoids,” I read on blackelderberry.info. “Among all fruits, elderberries are the most concentrated source of anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids that act as powerful antioxidants to boost the immune system and protect the body’s cells from harm.”

Bernice also praised probiotics. “When my kids are getting sick, I’ll give them Jarrow’s Yum-Yum Dophilus [$10.49 for 60 tablets at Henry’s]. It’s a chewable tablet with four probiotic strains that aid beneficial intestinal flora.” And who doesn’t love intestinal flora, the microorganisms that live in one’s digestive tract?

“If I feel a cold coming on, I take cod-liver oil [Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil — $14.99 for 8.4 ounces at vitaminshoppe.com],” said sis Nancy, “and I take it in liquid form because I find that it’s much more effective. It has vitamins A and D in it and helps keep me healthy.

“And water, water, water. I drink a ton of water when I feel a cold coming on,” she added, “to help flush out the system.”

My friend Susan also spoke to flushing out the system. “I give Emergen-C [$9.99 a box at Henry’s] drinks to my children during flu season. When I consistently give it to my children, they don’t seem to get many colds,” she said. “And if they are already sick, the vitamin drinks help keep the kids hydrated. Each packet has 1000 mg of C, seven active-mineral ascorbates, B vitamins, and 32 mineral complexes and electrolytes.

“Vitamin D is another staple now in our home,” she added. “It boosts immunity, so I give the kids the liquid Wellesse Vitamin D3 Natural Berry 1000 IU [$7.99 for 16 ounces at Ralphs]. It has a light, sweet taste, so they will all take it. And it kept them well while a nasty flu was going around their school. I think it must have helped.”

My notebook was filling fast with products to help with immunity, so I began inquiring about products that help once a sickness has arrived. As I did the weekly shopping at Henry’s, I struck up a conversation with the saleslady in the vitamin aisle.

“I have trouble with my sinuses year round, so I take Sinusalia Sinus Pain on a regular basis,” she offered. “It does help with sinus problems. [$7.99 for 60 tablets at Henry’s.]”

“Saline nasal spray has been helping my girls with their colds,” touted Sarah (Kroger Saline Nasal Spray — $3.49 for 1.5 ounces at Ralphs). “It helps flush out their congestion and so they sleep better. Sleep is always at a premium when the kids have colds. They are constantly waking up.”

My friend Maire touted an essential oil. “I use Olbas essential oil [$19.49 for 0.82 ounces at Henry’s]. It smells like peppermint, and it helps with breathing when you have a cold. Sprinkle some on your pillow. Or I’ll put some on a tissue and place it in the crib next to my babies when they are sick.”

The talk of congestion brought back a flood of childhood memories and smells of Vicks VapoRub ointment ($8.72 for 3.53 ounces at vitacost.com). My dad would smear a clump of the stuff on some old cloth and lovingly tie it about my neck.

“A lovely collar,” he’d jest. I can smell the menthol now. All of us kids would complain that the cure was worse than the disease. Doctor Dad would follow up the Vicks with a hot toddy — brandy, hot water, honey, and some ginger, all mixed together and choked down to help relieve the pain.

“Sleep heals the body,” he’d say, “and a toddy helps you sleep.”

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