Now that your child is back in school, the sometimes easy-breezy days of summer have turned hectic with schedules, deadlines, homework, complex relationships. For the next few weeks we’ll be running a series about things to keep in mind during the school year ahead.
Today we start with how best to insure a healthy year at school.
You already know the best way to stay healthy, but it bears repeating: prevention is always the best medicine. Here are some pointers.
Checkups. Has your child had her annual well child checkup? If not, now is the time to schedule it. The doctor will look at health history, height and weight, and will discuss age-appropriate health topics with you and your child. If you have a specific concern (social behaviors, learning difficulties, chronic ear infections, etc.) to discuss, you’ll want to let the office know when you call for the appointment to make sure they schedule a longer visit for you.
Immunizations. Yes, we harp on this a lot, but it’s for good reason. Immunizations protect children, families, and even whole communities from dangerous diseases. The state requires that you keep certain ones up to date; we have others we recommend. Check with our office (or on the patient portal) for your records.
Exercise. Sitting all day at school, then coming home and sitting in front of the TV or at the computer and homework desk is not good for your kid. He needs to get moving. Don’t expect physical education classes to provide all the exercise he needs. Unstructured play is good for all children, and organized sports are a great way to learn things like discipline, teamwork and a sense of accomplishment.
Germs. Let’s be honest. There’s no way to avoid germs at school. Uncovered coughs and sneezes, shared desks and close quarters give viruses all sorts of opportunities to infect students. Some exposure is good to develop immunity, but keeping hands clean is a great way to stave off colds and flu. Send hand sanitizer to school in your children’s backpack, and remind them to clean their hands before eating and after they use the restroom. Every time. Don’t share drinks or eating utensils. And, while we’re at it, remind them not to share combs, brushes or hats, which is the most common way to spread head lice.
Sleep. A good night’s sleep is an essential ingredient in the learning process. Sleep also helps mood and strengthens the immune system. Set a regular bedtime and stick with it, making sure your child or teen has an age-appropriate amount of sleep.
Balanced diet. Eating right feeds both body and brain. This webpage at the American Academy of Pediatrics site lists several of their articles regarding diet. Don’t forget we have a dietician on staff who can help you come up with an action plan for your young athlete, picky eater, diabetic, or can help you plan easy lunches and snacks to pack for school.
Keep these things in mind throughout the school year and they will help your child have a successful and healthy school year.
Do you remember all those things your grandmother taught you about staying healthy in the winter? Many of them hold true (chicken soup really is good for you!), but there are some commonly held beliefs about cold weather and health that just don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. Here are three.
1. “Stay inside, because cold air will make you sick.” Viruses and bacteria cause illness, not air temperature. Chilly weather shouldn’t keep children from getting the exercise they need. Just be sure to dress them warmly and use common sense. Don’t forget that cold and wet together (think playing in the snow) can cause frostbite fairly quickly.
2. “Never go out without a hat—you’ll lose all your body heat through your head.” Well, not exactly. Yes, staying covered keeps you warm. And yes, staying covered includes wearing a hat. But if your child got on the bus without her hat, she’ll be okay unless it’s super cold. You lose heat through any exposed skin, but no more through the head than through any other part of the body. Just keep your children warmly dressed. A hat or hood is often a good way to feel (and be) warm.
3. “Allergies go away in the winter.” Maybe. If your child has pollen allergies, those will likely improve. But if he has allergies to dust mites or pet dander, those may worsen because of increased time spent indoors. Many people with allergies have a sensitivity to live Christmas trees, not only because of the greenery, but because of outdoor allergens that cling to the needles.
Cold and flu season is here. It arrives with colder weather as people spend more time indoors, in close quarters, where germs are more easily passed from one person to another.
Here are just a few reminders of how to help keep your family healthy.
Wash hands. Good old soap and water are still the best protection against contagious diseases that get passed through touching surfaces, shaking hands, etc. Get your family in the practice of washing their hands often. When soap and water are not handy, use hand sanitizer.
Get plenty of sleep. Being well-rested keeps your immune system stronger.
Don’t share. Okay, you teach your kids to share, but some things ought to be for just one person. Water and soda bottles, lip balm, musical instruments all fall into this category. If you have a youngster in child care, make sure the provider sanitizes toys and tables daily.
Cover. Cough or sneeze into a tissue. If there’s no tissue, use the crook of your elbow instead of your hand. Germs on the hand are more easily transferred to other people or surfaces.
Already have a cold? Continue to do all the above, and make sure you stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids keeps mucous thin and your throat moist. Avoid caffeinated beverages.
It’s going to be a long winter, and your family will likely get colds at some point. Use the common sense advice above, and you may have fewer of them.