Humidity: Minimize Flu/Cold Symptoms

Humidity – How To Breathe Easy with Steam!

Whenever you come down with a cold or the flu, your respiratory tract works hard to expel the invading viruses. It turns into an organic “Slip ’n Slide” pathway coated by mucus. Do not try to dry those mucus secretions with an over-the-counter antihistamine. Instead, you can accelerate the healing process by thinning the mucus, thus making it easier to expel. To help keep mucus loose, stay in a moist, warm, well-ventilated environment. To keep the air in your bedroom especially moist, place bowls of water strategically near the air ducts or radiators. Remember too that influenza and cold viruses thrive and transfer more easily in dry environments. Do whatever you can to decrease your risk. Generally try to create more humidity in your home, whether somebody is currently ill or not.

A Steamy Strategy for Relief: Your Bathroom Shower

Breathing moist air can help to ease nasal congestion and sore throat pain. One good strategy when you are fighting a cold or flu is to indulge in a long, steamy shower several times a day. It can help even just to turn on the shower and sit inside your bathroom behind the closed door for a few minutes. Inhale the steam circulating within the room. The steamy shower environment can moisturize your nasal passages and may also help you relax. The high humidity helps keep nasal passages clear and can prevent cold-causing bugs from taking up residence in your nose.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a steam shower, use it frequently.

— caution —

If you are at all weak or dizzy from the flu, be precautious. Run a steamy shower full force but, instead of stepping inside, sit safely on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.

— variation:  a hot-and-cold shower —

This approach might help even more. “Temperature fluctuations can jump-start your immune system,” says Donielle Wilson, a naturopathic doctor in New York City.  She recommends that, at the end of a shower, you should stand for an additional 30 seconds under the hottest stream you can tolerate. Next turn the water temperature to cold for just 10 seconds more. Repeat three times, finishing with cold for maximum benefit.

What About a Warm Bath Instead?

Everybody knows that you can reduce a child’s fever by giving him or her a warm sponge bath. Not surprisingly, warm baths can also reduce cold and flu symptoms in adults. Adding one box of Epsom salt and one box of baking soda to the bathwater may further minimize body aches. Consider, too, adding of a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Recommended oils include tea tree, juniper, rosemary, peppermint, thyme, juniper, orange, lavender, ginger and eucalyptus.

A warm bath can bring comfort by relaxing aching muscles and combating chills. Experts suggest emptying the leftover herbs from your steam inhalation pot directly into bathwater. You can, instead, add five to eight drops of plant essential oils (only three drops for peppermint) to the tub. Best choices to relieve muscle aches: juniper, marjoram and ginger. Before climbing into the tub, disperse the oils well. For children 5 to 12 years old, add only one to two drops of essential oil diluted in vegetable oil.

— caution —

Most experts advise against the use of essential oils for very small children or pregnant women.

Get More Localized Humidity Benefits from a Vaporizer or Humidifier

Using a cool-mist humidifier or a steam vaporizer in the bedroom may make a flu or cold sufferer feel more comfortable. This approach is especially helpful in winter, when dry indoor heat can easily exacerbate symptoms. Increasing humidity near to the sickbed can reduce nasal inflammation and make it easier for the ill person to breathe. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil might further stimulate easy breathing. Remember though: the water used in humidifiers/vaporizers needs to be changed daily to avoid contamination by fungi, mildew or molds.

Some research suggests that a general home humidifier may actually help prevent flu from spreading since the virus thrives best in dry conditions.  A new CDC study found that raising the indoor relative-humidity level to 43 percent or higher promptly rendered 86 percent of airborne flu virus particles powerless. According to researcher John Noti, Ph.D., the study author: “The theory is if you combine virus droplets with water droplets in the air, they become so heavy that they fall and can’t be inhaled. Set your humidifier between 30 and 40 percent. This setting should provide enough flu-fighting water vapor. It is low enough, though, that it will not spur mold growth and trigger allergies.”

How Can You Set Up a “Humidity Tent” Using Nothing More Than Common Household Supplies?

Need a quick way to open painful, clogged airways? Don’t have any special appliances (e.g., vaporizer or humidifier) on hand? You can DIY using only common household supplies. Bring one quart-size pot of water to a boil. Then relocate it to a safe spot away from the heat source. Move close, sitting or standing in a comfortable, stable position immediately above the pot. Drape a large, clean towel over the top of your head to trap the steam. Close your eyes and lean over the hot water under your “towel-tent.” Breathe deeply for five to ten minutes. Inhale through your nose if you’re stuffy or else through your mouth to relieve chest congestion. Do not lower your face too close to the water. You could accidentally risk scalding your skin or inhaling vapors that are too hot. Repeat this procedure as often as necessary to ease congestion.

You can augment the power of steam by adding a handful of decongesting, antimicrobial herbs to the boiling water. Then cover the pot to allow them to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Herbalist Mindy Green, co-author of Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, recommends using eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary or peppermint leaves.

For extra phlegm-busting power David Kiefer, MD, clinical instructor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, WA, recommends adding a drop or two of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil to the pot of hot water. Other healthcare professionals suggest adding as much as three drops of thyme, rosemary or eucalyptus essential oil. They caution, though, to add no more than one or two drops of peppermint oil. Other experts warn against using essential oils of thyme and oregano at all because these two may be too irritating.

— caution —
  • keep your eyes closed as you breathe in the steam; both essential oils and steam may irritate the eyes
  • aromatic vapors may aggravate pre-existing asthma
  • never consume concentrated plant essences by mouth
  • always keep essential oil products well out of the reach of children and pets

What Can You Do When You Absolutely Must Be on the Road?

On the go? Can’t stay in bed any longer? For temporary relief: before you leave home, dab a handkerchief or a few tissues with eucalyptus oil. Then hold them under your nose whenever you feel congested. Still, the very best advice is to allow yourself enough time to recover fully before you venture out.

Chicken Soup: Can It Relieve Cold/Flu Symptoms?

How Effective Is Chicken Soup in Managing the Symptoms of Colds and Flu?

For generations concerned moms and caring grandmas all over the world have been serving chicken soup to sick kids. They believed it could relieve symptoms caused by colds and flu. But was dear old Granny really right? Is chicken soup actually the ultimate cure-all?

 Research Findings About the Action of Chicken Soup

Research recently published in the medical journal Chest looks at soup intake. It suggests that consuming a bowl of steamy chicken soup and vegetables can have good effects.  Whether prepared from scratch or warmed from a can, chicken soup actually may be able to affect the action of neutrophils. Those common white blood cells protect the body from infection. Chicken soup seems to change the rate of movement, congregation and concentration of neutrophils. It may thus help regulate inflammation and prevent large amounts of mucus from being produced.

In addition chicken contains high levels of  cysteine. This amino acid is similar in chemical composition to pharmaceutical acetylcysteine.  Doctors often prescribe the drug to treat symptoms of bronchitis and respiratory infections. It helps to thin mucus and makes it easier to eliminate.

A 2001 study claims to show that such soup also may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Those researchers suggest it may be capable of relieving congestion too; however, this claim is still not well established.

The Chest study found soup to be most effective against symptoms of upper respiratory infections.  Low-sodium chicken soup can supply good general nutritional value and help keep the body hydrated as well. The hot soup may even thin nasal mucus and thus make breathing easier.

 How To Make a Basic Chicken Soup Recipe More Effective

To amp up the action of your basic chicken soup recipe, you might consider adding certain spices and vegetables to the hot broth. Including freshly chopped garlic in the soup, for example, can give your defense system a powerful boost. While garlic kills some germs outright, it also appears to stimulate the release of natural killer cells. These cells are part of the immune system’s larger arsenal of germ-fighters.

Try spiking your soup with red (chili) pepper flakes to increase the broth’s decongestant power. The spice may help open sinuses and then break up mucus in the lungs.

Consider also adding onions. They contain phytochemicals purported to help the body clear bronchitis and other infections. Other beneficial vegetables that support a quick recovery:

  • carrots, which are rich in beta-carotene
  • bell peppers, tomatoes and other vitamin C-containing foods

 What is the Verdict of Medical Professionals?

So, what is the final word from medical professionals about the reality of chicken soup’s health bemefits? “I believe that chicken soup does help with symptoms,” says Reid B. Blackwelder, M.D., professor of family medicine at East Tennessee State University in Kingsport, TN. According to Dr. Jill A. Grimes, a family medicine specialist in West Lake Hills, TX: “Eating chicken soup when you have a cold helps because you’re breathing steam, which loosens up congestion. You are also hydrating. And you are not taking antibiotics — all the right treatment for simple upper respiratory viruses!”

Interestingly, though, not all doctors agree that chemistry alone explains the soup’s apparent efficacy. “When you lean over a bowl of hot chicken soup and the vapor gets up your nose, you feel better,” admits William Schaffner, MD, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. Dr. Schaffner also cautions, “… but some [of the benefit] is clearly emotional. It just makes you feel better having someone make soup for you.” And that’s not a bad thing after all, is it?

Bon appétit … and feel better FAST!!

Hydration Tips for Flu and Cold Season

Effective Strategies To Improve Hydration During Flu and Cold Season

The flu or even a persistent cold can soon leave your body dehydrated. If you have accompanying vomiting or diarrhea symptoms, the risk is even greater. It is essential to drink enough fluids whenever you feel a cold coming on. As an additional hydration benefit, liquids also can help to thin mucus and make it easier to expel.

Inside your nose and throat you have a forest of tiny hair-like projections called cilia.   The job of these hairs is to prevent viruses from entering your body by constantly waving back and forth.  Cilia work best when they are moist.

Consuming ample fluids is the only way to assure adequate hydration for your whole respiratory system.

How Much Fluid Is “Enough” for Optimal Hydration?

Generally it is wise to drink as much of liquid beverages as you can. For most individuals eight 8-ounce glasses daily will be adequate, but more may be even better.  This amount will generally keep mucus membranes moist and help relieve dry eyes and other common flu symptoms. Plain water is fine; so are fruit juices, herbal teas, popsicles and electrolyte beverages. You may want to stay away from caffeinated drinks, though, because caffeine works as a mild diuretic.

Yvonne Maldonado, M.D., professor of Infectious Diseases at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, offers the following advice: “To individualize the fluid intake recommendation more precisely, just take your body weight (in pounds) and divide by 2.  The resulting number,” she says, “will tell you how many ounces of water you need daily.  For example, if you weigh 128 pounds, your target will be 64 ounces (approximately 8 glasses) each day.”

If you feel nauseated, try limiting yourself to small sips of liquids. Big gulps that are swallowed too fast can precipitate an increased feeling of queasiness or even trigger actual vomiting.

Why Are Hot Beverages Especially Effective at Improving Hydration?

Another way to to keep your system hydrated is by drinking warm liquids, especially herbal teas and soup broth.  This intake thins mucus secretions, relieves nasal congestion and prevents dehydration — all at the same time. Hot liquids can also soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat.

  • Herbal tea with honey is especially soothing for a sore throat.
  • Black and green teas also contain catechin, a phytochemical purported to have natural antibiotic and anti-diarrhea effects.
  • Ginger tea helps block the production of substances that may cause bronchial congestion and stuffiness. In addition it contains compounds call gingerols, which are natural cough suppressants.
  • A tea brewed from the combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger, when drunk hot and often, can be effective for combating a cold or flu. Such a beverage can cause you to sweat and thereby hasten eradication of the virus from your system.

Harvard researchers found that drinking black tea improved immunity in as little as two weeks. Cranberries contain unique antiviral properties that may further help to ward off the risk of colds. The vitamin C in lemon juice provides an added boost of another powerful antioxidant. The following brew, containing all three ingredients, can be a pleasant way to help keep colds at bay:

— cold-fighter tea —

6 oz. water
1 tea bag of black tea
3 oz. cranberry juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
sugar or sugar substitute, to taste

In small saucepan bring water to boil. Remove pan from heat; add tea bag, juices, cinnamon and sugar (or other sweetener) to taste. Steep for three to five minutes; then discard tea bag and enjoy sipping the hot benerage.

What About Drinking Alcoholic Beverages When You Have a Cold or the Flu?

How about drinking alcohol? Probably not a good idea. According to William Schaffner, M.D., chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN: “When you have the flu, the last thing you want to do is drink alcohol. It makes you sleepy, and flu does that already.” Alcohol can also reduce the body’s ability to fight off infections for up to 24 hours.

One possible exception to the No-Alcohol Rule: if you’re so congested that you cannot sleep at night, you might want to try a hot toddy. Here is the recipe for that age-old remedy:

   — hot toddy —                                                               

   1.) Make a cup of hot herbal tea.

   2.) Add one teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about one ounce) of whiskey or bourbon.

Limit yourself to one single drink though. Too much alcohol will inflame the membranes and can make you feel even worse.

How Do You Know When You Are Consuming Enough Fluids To Meet Your Hydration Needs?

How can you be sure you’re getting enough fluid? One good indicator: the color of your urine should appear pale yellow. It ought to look something like the color of lemonade.

Cold and Flu Fighters: 10 Top Tips

10 Best Interventions To Fight Cold and Flu Symptoms

As United States health records document year after year, cold and flu (influenza) symptoms are among the leading causes of doctor visits and missed days from work and school. Likely the early months of this year will be no exception. Is there anything you can do now to avoid cold and flu season illness?

Which Do I Have? Is It a Common Cold? Is It the Flu?

Americans suffer from approximately one billion cold and flu illnesses every year. This averages out to about two to four colds per year for the average adult.

Several families of viruses are known to cause colds. When they strike, you can expect all-too-familiar, telltale symptoms. Runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and cough are likely to ensue. Though symptoms are usually mild and disappear within a week, colds do result in rampant absenteeism from work and school.

Influenza is not as common as the cold; furthermore, vaccines can help prevent flu. Unfortunately there is not yet an effective vaccine against colds. Two main types of influenza viruses — A and B — cause most cases of the flu. These viruses spread in the air and also via direct contact. Flu symptoms are usually dramatic with sudden onset of chills, fever and muscle aches. Nasal congestion is not as marked, but the cough that accompanies flu can take weeks, or even months, to resolve completely.

Are you experiencing congestion, sore throat, sneezing, coughing? If your symptoms are mostly confined to areas above the neck, you probably have a cold. On the other hand, if you have all those symptoms plus a fever of 102˚F (38.8˚C ) or more, then you’re more likely suffering from the flu. Flu symptoms also commonly include headache, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. The two are caused by different viruses, but features of cold and flu can be a lot alike. Generally, though, the flu comes on faster with accompanying symptoms of fever, cough and overall tiredness that are more intense.

— strong recommendation —

Call your doctor’s office at the first signs of flu.  Antivral drugs (NOT antibiotics) are available with a physician’s prescription. They may shorten your illness and ease symptoms of the flu. For effectiveness, though, you must begin taking them within 48 hours after onset of first symptoms.

Remember, also, that other serious conditions can sometimes look a lot like the common cold. Sinus infections, bronchitis, meningitis, strep throat and asthma exhibit some of the same features.

If you have severe symptoms or do not seem to be getting better within a reasonable time, then call your healthcare provider.  Most viral infections, including colds, are on their way out within a week or two. If you’ve been sick for longer than that—or if you feel as though your cold and flu symptoms started to diminish only to flare up again with a vengeance—see your doctor. Why? You may have developed a secondary bacterial infection. This illness could very well need treatment with antibiotic medication. Other signs of a bacterial infection include fever, nasal discharge that contains pus and severe pain in the sinuses.

Experts at the American Academy of Otolaryngology recommend that you contact your healthcare provider promptly in any of the following situations:

   1.)  experiencing difficulty with breathing

   2.)  unable to swallow or drink sufficient fluids

   3.)  develop a rash or a fever

   4.)  symptoms exacerbate or persist for more than a week 

 What Happens to the Immune System During Cold and Flu Season?

It is important to recognize that, although a virus triggers your cold and flu symptoms, the microbe itself is not the true cause of the illness. To illustrate: in the very same setting, as we have seen year after year, a group of individuals all can be exposed to the identical environment. Even so, only some of those people eventually become ill and exhibit symptoms.  The others escape unscathed. Why does the cold and flu disease process seem to be selective about victims? Health researchers have discovered that it is actually an impaired or compromised immune system that singles out susceptible victims. These are the people who are unable to fight off the virus.

Although there are many ways an individual might end up with a weakened immune system, among the more common causes are the following:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Insufficient exercise and/or exposure to sunlight
  • Poor nutrition, especially eating too much sugar and other refined carbohydrates
  • Vitamin and/or mineral deficiency
  • Inadequately managing emotional stressors
  • Any combination of the above

Few people make it through the entire winter season without experiencing at least one scratchy throat or annoying runny nose. It isn’t that germs magically appear at certain times of the year — they’re always around.  Instead, it is your ability to respond and fight them off that changes with the seasons. As temperatures drop and we begin to congregate indoors spending less time in the sun, we are more apt to spread viruses from one person to another.​

Of course you can’t very well hold your breath for the entire winter. If you want to avoid the misery of cold and flu season altogether this year, you will need to be proactive in boosting up your immune system.

What Specific Actions Can Boost Your Immune System To Fight Cold and Flu Germs?

To avoid getting sick in the first place, plan to implement positive lifestyle improvements.  How? Consider the following common sense recommendations:

  •  eat well and emphasize whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your diet
  •  try to sleep seven to eight hours a night
  •  wash your hands often, and sneeze into your arm — not your hand
  •  avoid exposure to cigarette smoke, which stalls respiratory defenses
  •  keep alcohol consumption to a minimum since excessive drinking can impair immunity
  •  exercise regularly and moderately. If you do come down with a cold, light exercise is still fine and can even help to clear respiratory mucus. If you have a fever, though, then take a break until your temperature returns back to normal.

One piece of good news: don’t worry about the weather. You can’t catch a cold just from being outside in chilly or rainy weather.

To review the most important reasons that many of us get winter cold and flu illnesses:

1.)   we’re indoors with other people while windows and doors are closed.

2.)   the viruses causing most respiratory infections are always mutating. As a result our immune systems have trouble fighting off these ever-changing germs.

3.)   many pathogenic viruses can survive on non-porous surfaces for hours. If you turn a door handle that was recently touched by a sneezing, sniffling person and then lift your hand to your nose, you could infect yourself by that one simple action.

4.)   some respiratory viruses, notably those that cause influenza, become airborne when someone coughs. You only need to inhale three tiny viruses to become sick.  Remember: one sneeze can spray 3000 droplets traveling at more than 100 miles per hour!

What Can You Do To Minimize the Impact If You Catch a Cold or the Flu?

Preemptive measures such as flu shots, hand washing, healthy eating and regular exercise are among the best ways to to minimize susceptibility. Sometimes, though, even the most scrupulous germaphobes — and other healthy people — get sick anyway.

Contrary to what you might think, some of those annoying symptoms you experience are actually helping the natural healing process.  They also provide evidence that the immune system is battling the viral illness. For instance a fever is your body’s way of trying to kill viruses by creating a hotter-than-normal environment. The hot environment makes germ-killing proteins in your blood circulate more quickly and effectively.  If you endure a moderate fever for a day or two, then you may ultimately get well faster.

Coughing is another productive symptom.  It clears your breathing passages of thick mucus that could otherwise transport germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. Even that stuffy nose is probably best treated mildly or not at all. A decongestant (e.g., Sudafed, Mucinex) works by restricting blood flow to the blood vessels in your nose and throat. You should be aiming, instead, to increase the flow. Because circulating blood warms the infected area, it helps secretions to carry germs out of your body.

Certain natural remedies/supplements/therapies can help shorten symptoms—or prevent infection entirely. Other products, though, have proven to be more hype than health-enhancing. Often simple home remedies may be all you need for relief of mild to moderate flu and cold symptoms. The following list provides information about a variety of interventions to consider if the “Flu Bug” attacks you this winter:

— references —

How Effective Is Chicken Soup in Managing Cold/Flu Symptoms?

How — Or Whether — To Choose the Best Option in Over-The-Counter Cold Remedies

Best Natural Supplements for Flu or Cold Relief

Herbal Remedies: Which Ones Might Help When a Cold or Flu Strikes?

Flu Microbes and Cold Germs: How To Fight Them

Can Rest and Sleep Speed Up Your Recovery from Colds and/or Flu?

How Can You Best Stay Hydrated During Flu and Cold Season?

Why Is Humidity Important To Minimize Flu/Cold Symptoms and Hasten Recovery?

How About a Stuffed-Up Nose? Are Natural Remedies Effective?

What Is the Best Way To Care for Your Throat During a Bout of Flu or a Cold?


Instead of candy, how about charity – near and far?






After weeks of visiting HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN to look for healthier ways to celebrate the Halloween holiday and then sanely and safely to dispose of all the bountiful/excessive candy treats collected during trick-or-treat activities, would you like to take a final look today at an alternative that might enable you and your children to avoid all the hazards of sugar overconsumption and do good for other children worldwide at the same time? Then why not consider, instead, an opportunity to trick-or-treat for charity instead of amassing huge quantities of candy this year?


Starting in 1950 kids have been collecting funds for UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) on Halloween ever since to help other children all over the world who need so much more than just a one-time infusion of candy. Since then, toddlers to teens all over America have gone door-to-door on Halloween with UNICEF collection boxes, calling out, “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF!” In those 65 years youngsters have raised more than $175 million for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF relief efforts. When you donate to this worthy cause, 90.2 cents of every dollar spent goes directly to help children in need worldwide. By Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF, your children can be superheroes for millions of children in need this Halloween. These youngsters in foreign nations are just like yours in many ways, except that unfortunately they live in countries where poverty or war or natural disaster can make it difficult to get even the basics needed to survive. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF funds help save children’s lives in over 190 countries and territories through immunization, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. To participate, you can find more information and can even enroll directly through their website:

For other good causes, your local Better Business Bureau may be able to provide you with names of worthy and reputable organizations that operate right in your neighborhood. See what opportunities might be available in your very own back yard, and then hit the street on Halloween to collect funds that will support your favorite hometown charity.



Hand-in-hand and side-by-side we can join together to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate and at the same time teach our own children the value of helping neighbors both near and far.


Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy Halloween!!!


Now that it’s here, what the heck should I do with all this Halloween candy?





“A little goes a long way,” say some nutritionists when referring to accumulated Halloween candy treats. Consequently these experts often recommend allowing kids to have only one to three pieces of the sweet stuff on any single day, perhaps as a dessert with lunch at school, as an afternoon snack or after dinner as part of the regular meal schedule.  The rest of “the stash,” they suggest, might be better consigned to the freezer to wait in icy storage for future occasions — definitely out of sight that way and hopefully out of mind as well.







Provide one zip-lock sandwich bag for each of the days in the agreed-upon time frame and allow your youngster to choose whichever piece(s) of candy will be consumed over each of those upcoming days.  Then seal all of the little see-through plastic bags except for the one to be used next day, label each one with the intended date of consumption and promptly deposit them all into your food freezer. Your goal here is to remove the powerful visual cue but at the same time reassure your child that his selected “treat treasures” are not going to disappear overnight. Remove only the designated bag, day by day, until finally all of the treats have been dispensed with only minor impact upon your child’s overall nutrition intake.


And, as we will see tomorrow here at HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN, not only children but also adults need to take care when dividing up and consuming holiday candy.  Please come back to this site Tuesday for more practical management suggestions — this time ones that apply to the big folks in your household.



Remember: adults can be just as vulnerable as kids!









After yesterday’s  HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN recommendations about distributing candy treats for your children in ways that will minimize the immediate nutritional wallop, today we will look at the situation as it applies to adults.

Nutritional peril is not limited exclusively to youngsters in the house; parents and adult caregivers should be every bit as vigilant about their own candy consumption as they are about their children’s intake. Says Karen Ansel, a New York nutrition expert, “Kids go to school all day, and parents are home with candy lying around.” She suggests restricting all of your own holiday treat purchases to small snack/fun-size bars and again cautions, as we had recommended in an earlier post, “If you’re buying Halloween candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, choose your own least favorite brands so that you are less tempted to eat it yourself.” And do not succumb either to the temptation to stock up on close-out candy sold in the grocery store at discount prices on the day after Halloween, a sure path to diet disaster even if the purchase price has been reduced.

>>>  Take any surplus supply of leftover treats that you bought but did not hand out as well as the left-behind yummies your children collected from the neighbors and stash them all deep inside your food freezer. This tactic will surely move the big risk out of your sight (and hopefully out of your mind as well). If you do not have enough freezer space, then instead store your leftover candy in the most inaccessible area of the food pantry at the very back of the highest shelf.  If you need to refrigerate any items, be sure to use opaque containers and locate them in the vegetable drawer or in the butter storage compartment to minimize your exposure to visual cues that might prompt you gobble down more than you had intended.

>>>  Some people have been successful at melting down uneaten candy and pouring the liquid chocolate into paper- or foil-lined muffin cups.  After hardening in the refrigerator, the chocolate can later be frozen inside a plastic storage bag or freezer container to bring out again just in time to use as an ingredient for future Thanksgiving or Christmas baking recipes that will be given away as home-made holiday gifts.


>>>  Re-purposing the candy as an ingredient within a “healthier recipe” may also be an option for you. In my household, for example, we sometimes combine 2 cups of milk (whole, 2% or skim — your choice, depending on fat/calorie concerns) with  leftover Snickers bars (2 1/2 ounces by weight and chopped into small pieces) and puree them together in a blender until smooth. Then we add a pint of either vanilla ice milk  or vanilla frozen yogurt and blend until smooth to make four servings of our favorite “somewhat healthy” milk shake beverage for a special treat.

>>>  Occasionally my sisters and I also have been known add a handful of candy corn or else a combination of M&Ms and pretzel sticks to our family’s otherwise high-nutrition applesauce-oatmeal-raisin cookie recipe (you can even let the kitchen-helper kiddies design their own spotted/multi-legged cookie animals with this combo — think: spider, octopus, ladybug or porcupine to start; then let the little imaginations run wild).

>>>  Other times we siblings have created a not-really-too-naughty snack mix by combining about 2 cups of broken pretzels with 1/3 cup of dry milk powder, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of white (granulated) sugar.  Then we added 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) of melted unsalted butter and stirred well, spread the mixture onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and baked at 275 degrees for about 20 minutes. After cooling the baked mixture, we finally dumped it all into a big bowl and combined it with about 12 ounces of candy bars that had been chopped into 1/2-inch cubes. To improve the nutritional balance, from time to time we have also added air-popped popcorn, nuts, dried fruits or seeds (pumpkin, sunflower or pepita) to the mixture.

>>>  Another good idea: immediately after Halloween take all those leftover candy treats 16174122-baskets-of-candy-cornalong to your workplace and display them in a disposable bowl that you can place in the cafeteria, break room, reception lobby or other high-traffic area to be consumed by passersby.  Or pack up the lingering goodies and give them all to your spouse or roommate to dispose of at that person’s place of employment. Whatever it takes, separate yourself from temptation as soon as possible.



Protect yourself by planning in advance … and then follow through on those plans. Do not allow yourself to go into the month of November with extra pounds or with regrets for impulsive behavior.



And come back to HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN again tomorrow for strategies to clear those tempting treats entirely out of of the house.  Prompt action can help you avoid remorse — and extra pounds — as you move into the month of November.


Disposal strategy:  divide and conquer



For the past two days here at the HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN site we’ve been looking at ways to control the impact of the one-time huge infusion of candy and empty-calorie treats that will find their way into your home on the holiday.  We have surveyed the landscape for strategies that work for both children and for adults.  Today’s question looks more like this: is there an early preemptive strike that you can make to minimize the danger of sugar consequences?







When the children finally return home from collecting treats, first inspect each item for safety of course, and then have your kiddos divide their “loot” into two piles — one for the candy they really want to keep and eat (and will promptly divide into daily portions to stuff into zip-lock plastic bags for storage inside the food freezer as HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN recommended earlier) but the other for any candy they do not intend to consume. Once divided, pack up the surplus and promptly donate that second pile to a food pantry, a shelter for the homeless, your local Ronald McDonald House, the United Service Organizations (USO) or a nearby senior center or children’s hospital.

To make the donation process even easier — and more fun — perhaps you could plan a special Day After Halloween party to include a few of your children’s friends.  Each guest would be invited to bring along all the uneaten/unwanted holiday candy left at that child’s house. You could then pool together all of the donated candy into one big container and allow each child to choose two or three favorite pieces from the treasure chest to take back home.  All the rest of the candy is then ready to be donated to the site of your choice. Get it completely out of your house before anybody is tempted to dip into the non-favorite items out of boredom or just because the treats are easily accessible and in plain view. In other words, pass along those “blessings” before they turn into burdens … or excess pounds and inches to carry with you into the month of November.



For an alternate (and potentially lucrative) strategy to get rid excess candy, come right back here to the HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN site tomorrow.  You might be surprised at some of the opportunities right in your own community to convert candy into cash.


What about getting PAID for re-gifting that leftover Halloween candy?


After HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN looked yesterday at ways to give away less-favored treats, today you can read on to learn of the possibility for your little ones actually to make money as they rid the household of “too much of the good stuff.”



39466815-vector-illustration-of-a-six-doctors-in-uniformRecently health care professionals in many communities have begun innovative buy-back initiatives to purchase excess candy treats with cash or gift certificates. To take advantage of such opportunities, children can assemble their surplus candy soon after Halloween and bring that treasure trove to a designated collection site, which is often an office location of the healthcare provider right there in the neighborhood. Be sure to check in advance, though, to determine valid dates for the program and the hours designated for candy cash-in as well as any special restrictions regulating packaging of the items. Upon surrender, you can expect the candy to be weighed by the authorized office staff person, purchased right there and then promptly bundled up and moved out of temptation’s way.


Consider a program such as Operation Gratitude, which was started by Wisconsin dentist, Dr. Chris17299825-colorful-illustration-with-tooth-and-toothpaste-for-your-design Kammer, to purchase unwanted candy (usually for about $1 per pound) and then ship it to U. S. military troops overseas. As part of this program, service personnel also receive toothbrushes, floss and mouthwash from Dr. Kammer along with each handful of candy so that they all can brush thoroughly afterwards. “You can’t get a cavity in a short time with only a handful of exposures to sweet treats,” Dr. Kammer says.

To locate nearby professionals participating in similar programs within your own community, you can visit the Halloween Candy Buyback website,


And if you might be interested in expanding your impact on an international scope, please be sure to come back to HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN tomorrow to look at a philanthropic program that can enable you bypass the candy consumption danger entirely and at the same time contribute to the welfare of needy children across the globe.


♫ ♫ ♫  “These boots were made for walking” ♫ ♫ 


After all of your advance planning,  what can you do during the actual trick-or-treat event itself to promote healthy exercise and minimize the impact of all those extra Halloween carbohydrate calories?



To promote healthy physical activity, Texas registered dietitian Kristi King encourages parents to insist that children walk — or even alternate a brisk skip-hop-jog pace — from house to house instead of driving them through the neighborhood in the family car. In the spirit of friendly competition parents might also consider providing siblings and friends with pedometers or activity meters to wear while they walk. That way, at the end of the adventure, there will be a strong incentive to determine who has been the most active “Halloween champion” while collecting those goodies.19535902-cartoon-illustration-of-a-superheroine







And be sure to head back here to HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN on Monday for suggestions about how to parcel out all those accumulated treats so that the kiddos don’t go into instant sugar overload during a binge session.