The suddenly rather chilly nights we’ve been having around here are quite the reminder that cold and flu season are approaching. This year’s flu season has been quite hyped up with all the talk of Swine Flu, vaccines, and wondering just how bad a year it’s going to be anyhow.

No matter how you think it’s going to go, it’s time to start planning for how you will cope with it all. When you have kids, there are pretty good odds that they’ll drag some bug home for the family to share.

At least when you’re an at home parent you aren’t so likely to be calling in sick to work, even if you have a work at home job.

On the other hand, you can’t just call in sick to your kids if they’re young. They need you no matter how sick you feel.

1. Research this year’s flu vaccines and decide if they’re right for your family.

There’s been a lot of talk about Swine Flu as well as the usual seasonal flu this year, and that means two shots to consider. It also means a lot more talk about whether or not both flu shots are a good idea. Reports such as the one out of Canada that the seasonal flu shot may increase the risk of swine flu make this an interesting decision even for those who would normally just get the flu vaccine.

My own inclination is to not get them, but that’s my choice for my family. You may have your own preferences.

2. Check your medical supplies.

It’s nice to have the stuff you might need on hand for in case you or your kids do get sick. It’s no fun running to the pharmacy with a sick kid or if you’re feeling miserable yourself. And waiting for someone to bring you supplies can be torture too.

3. Eat healthy.

This should #1 really. Eating healthy is one of your best defenses against getting sick. It’s not a guarantee by any means, but it’s one part of giving your body what it needs to fight off illness.

I’m really fond of fruit and vegetable smoothies. It’s amazing how many vegetables really don’t change the taste of a smoothie all that much. They also make great popsicles for the kids.

4. Wash your hands.

And have your kids do likewise, regularly.

This actually may or may not help against the flu, but it’s a good habit and can’t hurt. Especially since they do feel it helps limit the spread of the common cold.

5. Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands if you can help it.

I was kind of amazed a few years back when my oldest daughter started preschool and they taught her to sneeze and cough into the crook of her elbow. But it makes sense. You don’t touch many things with that part of your body, so you spread fewer germs that way.

Tissues are another good option.

6. Try not to spread whatever bugs you catch.

It’s rough staying home extra when you’re sick and/or keeping the kids out of school, but it really is for the best. When you’re an at home parent at least you can still get some things done if you have a sick child underfoot, unlike parents who work outside the home and have to take the whole day off. Take advantage.

It’s more difficult in many ways if you’re the sick one and you still need to get the kids to school. Do your best to stay away from others; most people will gladly stay a couple extra steps back if you warn them that you’re not feeling well.

7. Drink plenty of fluids.

This one is good advice anytime. Water is best, but juice works well enough, especially if your kids aren’t big fans of plain water.

8. Get outside.

Fresh air is good for you. Sunlight is good for you. Get outside a little bit without sunscreen to let your body produce some natural vitamin D, then consider sunscreen if you’re likely to be out enough to worry about a burn. Same for the kids.

Sunburn is less of a worry for most people in winter, of course.

Getting cold doesn’t mean you will catch a cold. Viruses flourish most in places with lots of people, and that’s where you’ll catch them. Just don’t over chill yourself either if it really is that cold outside. That’s not good for you either.

9. Exercise.

Healthy exercise is… healthy. It’s a good idea any time of year.