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4 Must-have home health gadgets

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Health gadgets for your family

Along with winter, cold and flu season may be waning, but that doesn't mean your family won't come down with a bug during the spring and summer months. Dr Jen Trachtenberg, author of The Smart Parent's Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses and Accidents (Free Press, March 2010) recommends being prepared for illness any time of year with four home health gadgets and a few preventative measures to keep your family well.

Health gadgets ward off cold and flu culprits

You get excited to cook with a new kitchen gadget in hand, and the latest fitness gadget boosts your motivation to sweat. So why not be equally enthusiastic about home gadgets that will protect your family from getting sick?

Health gadgets for your family

Dr Trachtenberg, pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Medical Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says, "My top four home gadgets to improve family health and wellness are a humidifier, hygrometer, thermometer and an air purifier." Perhaps not as brag-worthy as a new KitchenAid mixer or P90X fitness DVD set, these home gadgets can keep you well so you have the energy and desire to, among other things, use your kitchen and fitness tools.

Health gadget #1: Humidifier

According to Dr Trachtenberg, a humidifier, especially when used at night, can help relieve congestion and coughs for the whole family by adding essential moisture to the air. The moist air will help the nasal passageways more effectively clear out mucus and naturally calm coughs by soothing dry irritated throats. In addition, humidifiers provide relief for dry, irritated eyes, flaky skin and chapped lips. "When shopping for a humidifier, look for newer technology like the UV light chamber in the Vicks GermFree Humidifier, which kills up to 99.9 percent of mold and bacteria in the water," the children's health expert adds.

Health gadget #2: Hygrometer

Never heard of a hygrometer? It's a small, inexpensive gadget, available at most drug stores, which provides a digital readout of the relative humidity in your home. An optimal humidity level can reduce your risk of getting sick. "New research indicates that flu viruses have less chance of surviving on surfaces and in the air of your home when the humidity level is between 40 to 60 percent," explains Dr Trachtenberg.

Health gadget #3: Thermometer

Fever is often one of the first signs of the flu and is also a pretty good indicator of when a person is most contagious when sick. Chances are you have a thermometer or two in your medicine cabinet, but Dr Trachtenberg recommends her favorite for family's with kids. "I use the Braun Thermoscan Ear Thermometer as it gives quick and reliable reading," she says. "It's also very easy to use, especially with children."

Health gadget #4: Air purifier

Whether you live in a smoggy city or clean-air rural locale, your indoor air quality can contribute to colds, flu and allergies. "Indoor air pollution may be two to five times higher than outdoor air," Dr Trachtenberg warns. "Oftentimes, sneezing, sore throats and irritated eyes can be triggered by dust, mold, pet dander and smoke." The pediatrician recommends an air purifier like the Honeywell HEPAClean UV Tower Air Purifier, which uses technology to remove household odors, and reduce viruses, molds, bacteria and other allergens in the air.

Prevention is key to health

Even if cold and flu season is over, doesn't mean the kids or adults in your family aren't going to get sick. In fact, the spring and summer months offer unique opportunities -- like sharing treats -- to pass germs.

Dr Trachtenberg suggests the following preventative steps to avoid illness:

  • Wash your hands. Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer (at least 60 percent alcohol) is important to decrease the spread of germs.
  • Keep your treats and drinks to yourself. Don't share water bottles or licks of ice cream cones. Even one little taste can cause you to pick up an illness -- remember that bacteria and viruses are microscopic and multiply quickly.
  • Brush wisely. Replace your toothbrush each season, or anytime you are sick.

Spring and summer ailments

Just like colds and flu tend to be cold weather ailments, there are some illnesses that are more common during spring and summer months.

Dr Trachtenberg explains, "Other common spring and summer ailments include coxsackie virus, or hand, foot and mouth disease, which is signified by red painful bumps in the mouth, hands and bottoms of the feet." She also recommends watching out for strep throat, swimmer's ear and fifth disease. Symptoms of fifth disease include rash, red cheeks and a lacy pattern rash on extremities. The pediatrician warns, "It's important to note that fifth disease can be dangerous to a developing fetus."

Quick tips to boost your immune system

Health gadgets can help make your home environment more conducive to your family's health, but your diet and lifestyle play larger roles in your family's wellbeing. You can't simply rely on the humidifier or air purifier to protect you from illness. Dr Trachtenberg offers simple immune-boosting strategies to strengthen your body's best defense against disease.

"Peak health and wellness can be achieved by staying hydrated and eating healthy, particularly extra servings of brightly-colored high-antioxidant fruits and veggies," the health expert advises. "Daily exercise including brisk walking, and getting adequate sleep, are also very important. In fact, studies show that people who get more than eight hours of sleep per night have better immune systems and less colds than those who sleep less than eight hours per night."

Taking care of your family is a year-round endeavor. Home health gadgets and a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutrient-rich diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep will go a long way in keeping your family illness-free.

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