Now that we’ve found new school clothes and back-to-school gear for all our kids (well, mostly), parents are now moving onto worry #2 — how to avoid back-to-school sickness.

My family has already been through hand-foot-and-mouth disease and a wicked stomach virus, and it’s only September! Oof. So I’m padding my arsenal of scientifically backed, seasoned-mom-approved, natural remedies to try and keep my family as healthy as I can.

Here’s a list of tried and true favorites from parents who’ve been there, before you start reaching for the meds. Good luck out there, everyone!

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Related: 5 smart ways to make busy school mornings a whole lot easier.

6 natural remedies to keep families healthy during back-to-school season

1. Wash your hands constantly. With soap, not hand sanitizer.

This natural remedy seems like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating: wash your hands as often as possible and help your kids to wash theirs if they need it.

I was surprised to realize how rarely I help wash my preschool son’s hands, mostly because holding him up to the sink is awkward and not all that fun for either of us. So I finally set up a hand-washing station with a stool and a couple of bath toys (yes, in the sink) to make the process more fun.

The CDC even recommends hand washing with soap and water over using hand sanitizer in almost every circumstance. Keep it on hand for times there’s no sink or soap available, but opt for soap and water whenever it’s available.

2. Use regular hand soap over antibacterial. 

Most of us now realize that antibacterial soap is not the upgrade from regular soap we once thought In fact, researchers from the FDA claim antibacterial soaps may pose health risks, because they contribute to the rise antibiotic-resistant bacteria and over the long term, they expose your family to unnecessary chemicals.

3. Try adding elderberry to your diet. 

Even with all the buzz about elderberry as a natural remedy among my mom friends, I was skeptical. Especially since I’ve only encountered elderberry in the (admittedly delicious) liqueur form until now.

Turns out there’s empirical data showing that Sambucol, an elderberry extract, can not only shorten the duration of your flu symptoms (um, already sold!) according to the NIH, but it can boost the production of cytokines, proteins that strengthen your body’s immune system so that you’re less likely to get sick to begin with.

There’s also Sambucol formulated for kids, but of course, check with your doctor first.

4. Eat more foods with probiotics. 

Probiotics can replenish our gut’s good bacteria after we’ve had a rough bout of stomach virus or a powerful round of antibiotics. But some preliminary studies published on the NiH are showing that probiotics may be helpful in preventing illness as well, in they help regulate the body’s immune response.

More research is needed to understand exactly how this works, but since yogurt is full of calcium and protein (especially if you stick with one of our favorite Greek yogurts which also curb the sugar), why not go ahead and add it to your family’s morning breakfast options?

You can also make one of these genius DIY yogurt drink recipes. Delicious — and saves you money on store-bought.

Related: 9 immunity-boosting super foods you might already have on your grocery list

6 natural remedies to keep your family healthy during back-to-school season: Pork noodle bowl | The Whimsical Wife

Get ginger into your diet with this pork noodle bowl recipe from The Whimsical Wife

5. Eat more ginger (yum)

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you already know how well ginger helps to soothe nausea (and morning sickness!), but there are great reasons to consume ginger on a regular basis even if you’re stomach’s feeling fine.

Not only does ginger contribute to overall digestive health, but ginger has antimicrobial properties that help fend off infectious diseases. Plus, it’s an antioxidant and antiinflammatory, which means it it’s recommended as part of a diet to help prevent serious long-term health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and (*gasp*) general aging.

Just a head’s up: typical big brand ginger ale won’t cut it. (Sorry kids!)  but you can cook with real ginger in tons of dishes from so many international cuisines, like this gorgeous Asian Caramelized Pork Noodle Bowl recipe from The Whimsical Wife, featured on a recent weekly meal plan at Cool Mom Eats. We love it because while she uses the combo of garlic, ginger, and fish sauce for the base, she found a trick to help cut down on the sugar. She’s also got a recipe for 30-Minute Ginger, Pork, Rice and Egg Bowls that are really kid-friendly.

6. Get enough Vitamin C — in real foods. Beyond oranges.

Discussing tips with friends about natural remedies and how to avoid getting sick, there’s always a lot of talk about packing in as much Vitamin C as possible. But according to Harvard Health, Vitamin C isn’t the cold preventative powerhouse you might have imagined. It takes more than just one particular vitamin in a healthy diet to improve overall immunity, so skip the Vitamin C supplement or pill and look for foods that are rich with it.

If oranges spring to mind first, know there are lots of foods with more Vitamin C than oranges, including strawberries, papaya, bell peppers and kale. So be sure you and your kids are getting plenty of fruits and veggies during cold season.

I know, I know. Easier said than done, right?

Top two images: Raw Pixel via Unsplash