Children's Health Healthy Living

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Ensure that your kids stay as healthy as possible this school year.

March 15, 2016

Here are 10 tips for a healthy school year

Nobody wants to think that schools are unhealthy environments, but the fact is, even the best-run schools provide countless opportunities for your kids to be exposed to everything from the flu virus to head lice.

Here's the reality  — you can’t send your children to school in a bubble and protect them from everything, but you can do things that can help ensure that your kids (and others) stay as healthy as possible during the school year. Here are 10 ways:

1. Make hand-washing a habit

School nurses cite hand-washing as one of the most effective things kids can do to stop the spread of germs from hands to mouth and eyes, as well as from one child to another. Kids as young as kindergarten should know to wash their hands with soap and water – not just a quick rinse under the tap – before and after eating, after going to the bathroom and after blowing their nose, at a minimum. This goes a long way to reducing colds in a school environment.

2. Teach them how to sneeze

Educate your child about how to cough (mouth covered, or into a tissue), sneeze (into the crook of an arm, to prevent the spray of germs into the air) and blow his or her nose (carefully into a tissue that should be immediately discarded -- never a handkerchief that gets re-used).

3. Stay on top of immunizations

Most pediatricians follow a careful schedule of inoculations and immunizations throughout early childhood. Make certain that your child is current on all prescribed shots.

4. Keep sick children at home!

It’s surprising how many parents will send their child to school with a cold or fever, thinking they can tough it out. Not only will this delay the child’s recovery, it’s inconsiderate to other children, parents and teachers in that it needlessly exposes them to the risk of contagion. A day or two at home to recover properly is more than worth the extra catch-up homework that might result.

5. Discourage lunchtime over-sharing

Kids love to trade foods at lunchtime, and that’s fine. But discourage your child from drinking from the same water bottles, juice boxes, Thermoses® or milk cartons as other children – explain that that’s how viruses and bacteria can spread from one child to another.

6. Keep kids active

It’s a sad commentary, but in our laptop and digital-device-ruled world, sometimes kids have to be forced to play outside. Fresh air and physical exercise after school are crucial not just for your child’s mental health, but for his or her physical well-being. Exercise boosts immunity!

7. Don’t forget sleep

Well-intentioned parents today tend to keep kids so occupied with organized activities that often kids are over-tired. Sure, soccer, ballet, hockey and karate are all wonderful – but your child needs a good night’s sleep each and every night to stay healthy. Teachers and school nurses often remark at how exhausted some children seem these days.

8. Don’t skip breakfast

Every cliché about it being the most important meal of the day is true. It’s fuel for both brain function and the physical demands of school. Good nutrition is crucial to a high-functioning immune system, making breakfast a direct contributor to your child’s health in school. And, obviously, with lunchbox meals and after-school snacks, keep it healthy – fruit rather than junk food, low-fat dairy drinks as opposed to sugary soft drinks, etc.

9. Avoid lice

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 6 million and 12 million infestations of lice happen each year to children between the ages of 3 and 11. Reduce your child’s chances of getting lice by warning him or her not to share combs, brushes, scarves or hats.

10. Watch for signs of stress

Even in the early grades, kids are under a surprising amount of stress. Take time with your kids to find out what’s weighing on their mind – and try to reduce their level of anxiety about grades, competition or other issues. Kids can be every bit as victimized by stress – which takes a toll on general health and immunity to disease – as adults can.

The reality is, kids get sick – and then, just as quickly, they get well. Adhering to these simple guidelines can at least reduce the chances of a serious illness resulting from the many things they’re exposed to in school each day.