Back to School: How to Keep Your Kids Healthy This Year
As kids and parents gear up for back-to-school season, the excitement and concern over the growing to-do list follows. While school supplies shopping, new uniforms and the dedicated new school shoes are at the top of most parents’ list, keeping your child's health and wellness in mind is probably the most important thing you can do as your family prepares for back-to-school.
Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind:
Stay on track with check-ups and immunizations
If the COVID-19 pandemic put your family’s well-visits on hold, here’s your reminder to get them back on track before your child gets too far into the school year. These types of appointments are critical for assessing milestones and developmental stages as well as ensuring appropriate growth and nutrition.
Your pediatrician can help ensure that your child is up to date on immunizations and meets your state’s requirements to enroll or return to school. Vaccines are the best way to protect your child against serious disease. Children 6 months or older are strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine, especially with the recent increase in childhood infections.
Boost immunity with nutrition and probiotics
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” has a little truth to it if apples aren’t the only source of nutrients your kids are getting. Eating healthy has numerous benefits, including boosting the immune system. With children playing, learning, and socializing around others in school – the best thing they can do is optimize their immune system for fighting off germs and infection.
Zinc is an important mineral that your body requires but doesn’t produce naturally. It helps keep your body strong, helps heal wounds and supports normal growth. Eating protein-based foods such as poultry and red meat, as well as beans and nuts, are great options for providing zinc-rich nutrition.
Keeping a healthy gut with a good balance of probiotics can also help boost your child’s immune system. Foods like yogurt, pickles and sauerkraut are good sources of fiber and contain friendly bacteria that help the digestive system.
A healthy diet full of whole, minimally processed food can help your child equip themselves with the vitamins and minerals they need to grow and develop properly, keep a healthy immune system as well as maintain healthy weight, stabilize their mood, sharpen their mind, and avoid other serious health problems. A daily multivitamin certainly wouldn’t hurt either.
Maintain good sleep habits
Restful sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and for children, the impact of it extends to the classroom. Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and even hyperactivity.
Make sure you’re establishing a consistent bedtime routine. Your routine should include putting away electronics and turning off screens an hour before bed and limiting caffeine in the afternoon and evening. It can also include taking a warm bath, reading a short book, or going through a brief meditation. Giving your child a chance to “wind down” can help create better sleep habits and improve their performance during the school day.
Promote regular hand hygiene
It’s near impossible to keep those tiny little hands from touching anything and everything. Especially in a school environment where countless other hands are also touching surfaces, hand hygiene is critical to keeping your kids healthy. Washing your hands for 20 seconds with warm soap and water can reduce bacteria and germs that cause infections. Teaching your child a song to wash their hands to is often helpful to ensure they are washing for the appropriate amount of time. Examples of songs include “Happy Birthday” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. Keeping hand sanitizer in your child’s backpack as a quick go-to can also help alleviate germs if washing with soap and water is not an option. Cleaning your hands not only prevents you from catching germs, but from spreading them too – especially to others who might be more susceptible to getting sick.
It’s important for kids to keep their bodies moving. That doesn’t necessarily mean running on a treadmill or lifting weights like most adults would imagine. For children, exercise means playing and being physically active. Gym class, recess, soccer practice or dance class are all types of exercise that are healthy and beneficial for kids. Active kids are shown to have stronger muscles and bones, less risk of becoming overweight, a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and a more positive outlook on life. Parents should help encourage their kids to get involved with a variety of activities to promote endurance, strength, and flexibility.
So, while you’re out shopping for notebooks and pencils, pick up a bottle of hand sanitizer, a few healthy snacks, and call your primary care provider or pediatrician to schedule those check-ups!
Learn more about Ochsner Hospital for Children here.