For many kids, summer sun and fun has come to an end, and back-to-school season is in full swing. Heading back to school is an exciting time for kids. New notebooks, a special first-day-of-school outfit, and a chance to see old friends and make new ones. But, lurking in the back of parents’ minds is the reality that the return to school means an increased exposure to germs, which can lead to sick days for the whole family.
Thankfully, there are several simple yet effective strategies to keep the entire family happy and healthy throughout the school year. These tips and tricks can help to keep illnesses at bay and minimize symptoms when they do occur.
Good Hand Washing Technique
One of the simplest tricks to staying healthy is proper hand-washing. As a parent, teaching your kids how to wash their hands properly can make a world of difference in avoiding illness. Both when and how we wash our hands is key. Be sure your children know to wash after using the bathroom, before and after eating, after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing, as well as after touching pets or animals. And be sure they know to wash all parts of their hands (not just their palms or fingers) with soap for at least 20 seconds.
The CDC recommends that kids hum the tune of Happy Birthday while washing their hands to ensure they’ve spent sufficient time scrubbing.
Sneezing & Coughing: Do’s and Don’t
In a classroom full of kids, it’s inevitable that your child will be exposed to new and unwanted germs. To help keep your child from spreading their germs to others you can teach the importance of sneezing into their elbow, covering their mouth when they cough and washing their hands after a sneeze or cough. Imagine if every child in the class remembered these golden rules? Far fewer germs would be spread.
Boost the Immune System with Probiotics
More than 70% of the immune system is housed in the gut, which means a healthy gut is foundational to fighting illness and staying healthy. Immune cells in the gut protect us and act as gatekeepers, determining what’s allowed to pass into the bloodstream and what isn’t.
Without a healthy balance of gut bacteria, immune system function can be dramatically compromised. One easy way to support your child’s gut and immune health is with a high-quality probiotic supplement. You can also try introducing fermented foods into their diet such as plain yogurt, unsweetened kefir, and raw sauerkraut.
Provide Nourishing Foods
Nutritious foods are essential for staying healthy, and this goes for every member of the family. Start with a nutrient-dense breakfast that has plenty of protein, fruits and/or veggies, and a serving of healthy fat. Smoothies can be a wonderful option for picky eaters.
When packing school lunches, fresh veggies, fruits, and good fats like avocado and nuts can go a long way in keeping your little one healthy. It’s also great to include a serving of protein – deli sliced turkey or chicken, string cheese, plain yogurt, and natural peanut or almond butter are good choices. And try to stick to whole grain instead of white bread to ensure they get plenty of fiber and don’t suffer from energy dips and spikes.
Research shows that adequate rest makes a huge difference in how the body’s immune system functions. Getting your child on a sleep schedule that ensures they are getting adequate rest for their age is crucial for physical, mental and emotional health.
Most school-age children need 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Set a strict bedtime and wake-up time (and stick to it), and make a no screen-time rule an hour or two before bed. Try implementing relaxing bedtime routines such as reading books, or taking a hot bath and keep lights dim to promote natural melatonin production and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone).
Kids these days tend to be overly stressed, so don’t underestimate the importance of downtime. Running from activity to activity can wreak havoc on your child’s nervous system and can also take a toll on their immune health. While back to school season can be a busy and chaotic time, try to find time for your children to enjoy unscheduled, free and natural play.
If your kiddo does come home from school sick, there are some simple ways to support healing. Continue with a probiotic to boost immunity, make sleep a priority, and make sure to give them nutritious, nourishing foods and plenty of water. Rest, time and lots of love is usually a fail-safe recipe for recovery.