Back to School- Keeping the Kids Healthy

It’s the fall and the school buses are sighted in your morning commute. Parents everywhere are busy with carpool schedules, lunch packing, school visits, teacher meetings, homework help, and early bed routines.

It is a well known fact that the incidence of communicable diseases increase when kids are back in school.  Is getting sick bad?  No, getting sick is not “bad” dependent on the circumstances and type of illness.

 A healthy immune system is built by exposure to germs that provoke an immune response.

A healthy developing child will on average get about 4 illnesses during any given year.  On the contrast, healthy adults would get approx 2 illnesses a year; these illnesses mainly are exposures to viruses that can manifest as cold or flu-like symptoms. What happens in the school environment that makes kids more susceptible to getting sick?

The recipe for getting sick can be seen in childcare centers and classrooms;

  • 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 protect our children from getting sick when they are back in school?

Here are some important tips for keeping your little-ones immune system 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.
  • Sleep: kids need more hours of sleep than adults do on average, infants sleep about 16 hours a day, and growing children need at minimum 8 hours, other kids may need more.  For example, my daughter, slept on average for 10-11 hours through most of elementary school.
  • Healthy meals: breakfast is the most important meal of the day to get a great start, many children will become lethargic, cranky, and unfocused in school if they don’t get something to eat in the morning.   School lunch time may be hard for your little one, it is important to pack things that are healthy but also something your child will eat.
  • 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.  Water is the best cleanser of the body.
  • Avoid sweets: 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.
  • 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 week 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.  Happy school days!


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