It’s almost that time again… The lazy days of summer are coming to an end and school is starting up. Unfortunately this means that flu season is on its way, so after you’ve done your school supply shopping and the kids have finished their summer reading, consider these 8 tips on how to stay healthy in the new school year.
1 – Get into a routine – Set a wake up time that lets kids have breakfast, and have a designated block of “homework” time in the evening when no TV and video games are allowed.
2 – Get to bed early! If the kids have been staying up late and sleeping in all summer, start adjusting habits now, by making bedtime slightly earlier each night before school starts. Young children need 10-12 hours of sleep and teens need around 9, though most don’t get enough. Being tired can make it harder to do well in school, and it also leaves your body more vulnerable to illness!
3 – Eat healthy – Kids (and adults) should have breakfast since it will give them energy throughout the day and help them concentrate in class. Pack a well-balanced lunch and for a morning or afternoon snack, some apple slices or carrot sticks to munch on instead of chips and candy. They can drink juice (without added sugar) or have citrus fruits high in vitamin-C to help boost their immune systems.
4 – Wash hands! This is probably the easiest way to prevent the spread of germs. Teach kids to use soap and warm water, and wash for about twenty seconds after using the bathroom, touching money or other commonly handled objects, sneezing or coughing into their hands, and before and after eating. You do not need to buy antibacterial or antimicrobial labeled soap – according to the FDA they are no more effective at preventing the spread of illness than regular soap, and may help create new resistant strains of bacteria – regular soap is just fine! (Be sure to read more about the disadvantages of antibacterial soaps in the 2010 Farmers' Almanac.)
5 – Teach kids to use their arm to cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze instead of their hands, so they don’t spread germs and similarly to keep hands away from their eyes, nose, and mouth.
6 – Backpacks – Make sure your kids have a reasonably sized backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps. Try to place the heaviest items like textbooks closest to the child’s body. Don’t over-pack since carrying too much weight can cause back problems later in life. There’s no need for a child to carry a bag that is bigger than them!
7 – If kids do get sick, don’t hesitate to let them stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. If they are sneezing and coughing they are most likely contagious and should not be around classmates. Colds and the flu often go away on their own, but if you notice a high fever or greenish looking mucus, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to see if antibiotics are necessary.
— Written by Freelancer Kristen Hewitt