Back to School- Keeping the Kids (and Yourself!) Healthy
It’s not just kids and parents who get sick in the fall. More sick kids = more sick parents = more sick people sneezing on your kale. We spend more time inside as the weather cools down. We find ourselves getting less exercise. We are more likely to turn to poor habits as we head into winter.
That said, this post will focus on the littles since it’s back-to-school season. I’ll be writing more about healthy immune systems as we head into fall!
A healthy developing child will on average get about 4 illnesses during any given year. On the contrast, healthy adults would get approximately 2 illnesses a year.
What happens in the school environment that makes kids more susceptible to getting sick?
There are a few important factors: Close contact for extended periods of time to others who may be sick or who are carriers. Inadequate hygiene habits. Underdeveloped immune systems.
How do we keep our children from getting sick when they are back in school?
Here are some important tipsfor keeping the littles healthy and limiting exposure:
- Hand washing: after using the bathroom, before eating, and when they get home from school, building healthy habits at home will translate to other environments. It’s natural for kids to skimp on the soap or the amount of time they wash. Take the extra time to supervise until you know they’ve got it down. (Hat tip…water doesn’t have to be hot, but they do need to use soap and scrub well!)
- Sleep: kids need more hours of sleep than adults do on average. My 7th grader fights me tooth and nail when I make him go to bed early enough to get 10 hours of sleep but the truth is that he functions better with at least this. His energy is better. His mood is better. He performs better on the soccer field. It’s hard on him when the other kids are allowed to stay up as long as they like on the regular but I know too much to let that happen. The national sleep foundation gives the following guidelines:Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
- Healthy food: Most kids need breakfast to be able to function optimally (this isn’t necessarily the case for adults.) A low sugar and high protein start to the day is a great way to focus on health. Lunches can be a little dicey for some kids given how much time they have to eat at school (so often not enough!) so be sure to provide nutritionally dense foods. One of my favorite tricks is to have my son snack on veggies while he is doing his homework or while we are cooking dinner. We shoot for 3 cups of veggies a day for him.
- Water: not only is water important for adults, children need plenty of it too. Skip the juice and sodas that are packed or given at meal times!
- Avoid excessive sugar: there was a study done back in the 70’s that showed depression of the immune response with exposure to higher blood sugar levels. Save the sweets for an occasional treat on the weekends. Here is a post about why sugar can be so addictive…it’s fascinating to me.
- Over the counter medicines: there are so many products on the shelves these days that tout their great effects on enhancing the immune system or reducing the number of days or severity of symptoms children have when they are sick. In the past couple years there has been more scrutiny on over the counter medicine for children, check with your doctor and their recommendations vs. the manufactures claims, many of these claims are unfounded and safety of these meds for children may have not been tested.
- Vitamin D: Get your child’s vitamin D levels checked and then work with your naturopath or other practitioner who knows how to dose vit D3 appropriately for children!
As you get ready for another year of school days, make sure to think about what healthy things you do for yourself that you can pass to your kids. Remember, we parents are the best role models for our children.
Yours in Health,