For many of us, our kids are back in school and the list of things we have to get done for the new school year is getting longer and longer. School supplies, new clothes, immunization forms, carpool arrangements, and after school activities, the list goes on and on. As parents, we can quickly become overwhelmed with the stress of the transition back to school. Then the anxiety sets in about how they are going to adjust physically and emotionally to the challenges of a new school year. As we prepare them for school, we often don’t think of how to prepare their immune systems. I know what you are thinking, another thing to worry about. This list is actually a very simple but an important guide to keeping our children healthy during the new school year. As the children return to school and share their tales of summer fun, they also share viruses and bacteria. Implementing a few simple rules can really help build your child’s immune system and keep him or her healthy during the school year.
A Good Night’s Sleep. Sleep is extremely important to maintaining good health and strong immunity. When our children are run down and tired, they become more vulnerable to becoming sick. School aged children need up to 11 hours of sleep. Preschoolers need a total of 13 hours of sleep per day. The summer months of late night bedtimes and no schedules can make back to school a difficult transition, especially for toddlers. For many of us, we spend the last few weeks of summer with last minute get aways and late night fun. Getting them back on schedule is important and relatively easy. We recommend starting bedtime preparation 15 minutes earlier each week until you have reached an appropriate bedtime. This will help to accomplish a more seamless transition.
Teach them Hand Washing. The research has shown that the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness is to wash our hands. Good hand washing habits start at home. Make sure your children wash their hands often and with soap. They need to understand the importance of clean hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and arriving home from school. For kids, regularly washing their hands can be a fun and entertaining activity – and, it provides a chance for them to take an active role in their own self-care. Children should wash their hands for 20 seconds, or about how long it takes to sing the happy birthday song.
Teach them to cough into their elbow. It is equally important to teach your child that if they are sick, they must cover their mouth before sneezing or coughing. A sneeze can travel as fast as fifty miles per hour and contain 100,000 germ particles. When you sneeze or cough, or even wipe your nose with your hand, the droplets are transmitted to things like door knobs, remotes, kitchen counters, and other surfaces that people around you are likely to also touch. It is age appropriate to explain this to your kids and teach them that coughing into their elbow can help germs from spreading to others. Good hygiene is the key to decreasing the spread of germs in the classroom. Finally, know the guidelines of when your child can go back to school if they are fighting illness.
Snacks with immune boosting properties-Certain fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients such as vitamin C and carotenoids, which can help to boost your child’s immune system. Strawberries, blueberries, oranges, green beans, and carrots contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that can help to increase your child’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and interferons which will help them fight off illness. Children are more motivated to try new things when they are involved in the process. Let them go to the store with you and pick out their own snacks for the new year. Allowing them to become involved in their own diet will motivate them to try new things.
Pack them a water bottle– During these home summer days, children comes off the playground or PE asking for water. However, while they take turns quenching their thirst at the water fountain, we are also sharing their germs with all their classmates. Packing them a water bottle, not only helps to ensure they are hydrated but it also decrease they chance they will be exposed to germs.
Important tips when teaching you children about medicine
Unfortunately even with all my tips and tricks, children get sick! It is so important that we have a healthy discussion with our children about the proper use of medicines and dangers that can exist if they take them without supervision. Below are some important tips from my brand partner KnowYourOTCs.org to help to your child safe from the possible ingestions or overdosing of medications.
Always use the proper word for vitamins when speaking to them, never call it candy. In fact, when we talked with Dr. Swanson about this, she admitted to calling liquid medicines “yum-yums” when her boys were young in an effort to get them to take acetaminophen or other medicine easily. She has since called this a “totally novice move as a mom and pediatrician.” Never tell kids medicines (including vitamins) are candy, even if they don’t like to take it. Medicine is medicine — Dr. Swanson said, “We can discuss its benefit but really can’t confuse or inflate it to that of candy.” Dr. Swanson also reminds us that, “Our children inherently want to mimic our behaviors (at least while they are young!) so we have to stay away from advertising medicines or vitamins as candy.”
· Teach them to only take medicine from a parent or trusted caregiver. Dr. Swanson notes that although this is a safeguard, especially for older children, “We have to remember that young children will always be led by their curiosity.” And make sure all your medicines are stored safely up and away and out of sight! Find more information about the safe storage of medicines here.
I am a proud blogging ambassador for the CHPA Educational Foundation’s KnowYourOTCs.org program. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own!