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Doctors’ Tips for How to Stay Healthy When the Kids Are Back in School

posted: 09/08/16
by: Katie Morton

Back to school means freshly sharpened pencils, crisp notebooks, and shared classroom germs. While you can't wrap your child in bubble wrap or douse them with hand sanitizer each day, you can keep your family healthy and happy during back-to-school with a few simple preventative measures.

1. Stick to a Regular Bedtime

The long lazy days of summer may mean that bedtimes have been pushed back (if observed at all). Now that the school bus is arriving, it's time to make a healthy sleep schedule top priority. Proper sleep will boost the immune system, as well as prevent your child from falling asleep at their desk while the teacher is talking.

So your child can get into a proper sleep routine, start making bedtimes earlier the first few weeks before school begins. Doctors recommend that school-aged children sleep for 11-12 hours each night to help them stay healthy and at their peak mental sharpness.

  1. Wash, Wash, Wash
    School-aged children need to be taught basic hygiene skills to maintain good health. Keep germs at bay by teaching your child the basics of hand washing. Stress to your child that they need to scrub their hands with soap and warm water before they eat and after using the restroom (at a minimum). This one simple step can reduce the spread of germs and fight off infection.

If your child is resistant to hand washing, then send them to school with a packet of antibacterial wipes to use before lunch. They're not as effective as plain old soap and water, but they do reduce germs in a pinch.

3. Drink More Water

Proper hydration is crucial for a top-notch immune system. Drinking water keeps your child's body healthy and energized. If your school allows it, send your child to school with their own bottle of water and encourage sips throughout the day.

If your child is playing sports, don't waste your money on those costly sports drinks--most are only sugar, which your child doesn't need! Water is the best energy drink around, so teach your child to rehydrate after each tough practice and game.

4. Make Nutrition a Priority

The first few weeks of school often mean that parents pack painstakingly elaborate lunches for their kids. Some parents are discouraged to find that their child only picks at these lovingly packed offerings.

Don't worry, nibbling at lunchtime is normal. Some children become overwhelmed at the social bustle of the school cafeteria and it tamps down their appetites. Try to offer a variety of visually appealing, nutrient-dense foods, such as proteins, complex carbs, dairy in the form of cheese and milk, veggies, and fresh fruits.

Breakfast is a busy time for many families, especially if both parents are working. But try to make breakfast the star meal of the day to power your child through their school day. Doctors say protein-rich breakfasts are the perfect way for a budding scholar to bring their "A" game to the classroom. A side of fresh fruit or juice offers cold-blasting vitamin C and antioxidants to bolster the immune system.

5. Know When to Stay Home

If despite your best efforts, your child picks up a back-to-school illness, know when it's time to call in a sick day. Of course, you don't want your child to miss class if they don't need to, but sometimes a day to recover is just what's needed.

As a general rule of thumb, your child should stay home if they have a temperature greater than 100 degrees, extreme sleepiness, severe cough, and vomiting or GI issues. In this case, it's best for your child to recover at home until they are symptom-free for 24 hours.

The basics of rest, good nutrition, and proper hygiene go a long way toward keeping your whole family healthy throughout the year. With our simple 5 tips, your child will be sure to have a happy, healthy return to school!