Back to School: 5 Tips for Staying Healthy
Most parents know that ‘back to school’ often equates to sneezes and sniffles as kids share more than just their summer adventures. For many parents, the on-set of the new school year means hoping they can keep their kids (and themselves!) from getting sick.
Here are 5 tips for helping to keep your kids healthy this school year:
1. Pack Water Bottles
Smaller children don’t always know to keep their mouth off the water fountain when they drink, so be sure to pack them a reusable, BPA-free water bottle every day, and get them into the habit of putting it in the dishwasher or washing it thoroughly every night.
2. Teach Kids Not to Share
That’s right, sharing isn’t always caring – at least when it comes to germs. Teach your kids to avoid sharing personal items, such as water bottles, earbuds, snacks, and other items that could spread germs.
3. Eat Well
A healthy immune system relies on a good intake of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. This means getting your kids to eat their helping of fruits and veggies, as well as other foods linked to healthy eating.
4. Sleep Well
If the return to school means your kids are getting up earlier than they’d like, help them realize that it makes sense for them to go to bed a little earlier. Set a good example by having a cut-off point for TV, computers and smartphones at least an hour before bedtime, so natural melatonin synthesis isn’t disrupted by the light emitted from these devices. Without adequate sleep, not only do kids have a hard time concentrating, but they’re also more susceptible to feeling unwell.
Children aged 10-17 need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep a night; children aged 5-10 need 10-11 hours of sleep; and children aged 3-5 need 11-13 hours of sleep.
5. Wash Your Hands!
It seems obvious, but the fact is that most people simply forget or do not wash their hands effectively, meaning that every time they touch something or someone, they risk spreading germs. With smaller kids, use this as a teaching exercise by getting them to repeat the alphabet while they scrub their hands. Older kids should get into the habit of counting to at least 20 before rinsing. Be sure to encourage hand washing after petting an animal, handling or eating food, coughing or sneezing, and for older kids who babysit, changing a diaper.
Some parents have started packing hand sanitizer for their kids and while this is better than nothing, it’s still important to teach kids to wash their hands with warm water and soap after touching things that may carry germs, such as classroom objects.
And, of course, if children do fall ill, keep them away from school. This helps protect other children (and teachers!) from germs, and helps protect the sick child from picking up anything else while they are vulnerable. If a child has a fever it is especially important to keep them away from school as this is when they are most contagious.