Staying well during the school year may sound like common sense but often kids can be rushed and busy, which causes them to forget some of the basics. The most important key to wellness is good handwashing. “Some kids like to rinse their hands real fast and not use soap, but you must use soap,” said Dr. Sara Laule, pediatrician with the University of Michigan Health System. If you are on the go, hand sanitizers can be beneficial to keep in your purse. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends washing your child’s face once or twice daily with warm water and a mild cleanser. There are countless skin care products at drugstores, but all kids really need is a gentle soap.
Hygiene is critical
If you have the time, try to disinfect commonly touched surfaces in your home like tables, toys and doorknobs to prevent the spread of germs. In the winter, cold and flu symptoms are circulating. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. “Things seem to be lasting longer this year than they have in the past,” said Laule. It is not too late to get the flu shot if you have not done so already. “The flu shot protects against four different strains of influenza,” Laule explained.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
“Sleep well and try to eat well to keep your body in optimal condition,” said Laule. Parents should get seven to nine hours of sleep a night and kids should get more based on their age. Older kids tend to share drinks or utensils, so you want to discourage that. “Parents can give a multivitamin to boost the immune system but there is no data that it absolutely helps,” said Laule. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that you select a mix of foods from the five food groups which are vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy and quality protein sources; offer a variety of food experiences; avoid highly processed foods; use small amounts of sugar, salt, fats and oils with highly nutritious foods to enhance enjoyment and consumption; and offer appropriate portions. It is about taking care of yourself, and your kids. “Try to keep stress levels down,” said Laule. Take time out to relax, have a positive mindset and get support from family and friends.
Physical activity can fend off illness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes physical activity to maintain weight; reduce high blood pressure; reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke and several forms of cancer; reduce arthritis pain and associated disability; reduce risk for osteoporosis and falls; and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. You can take part in a simple activity as a family such as walking, swimming or playing basketball.
Don’t push it
“If your child has a fever I would keep him home for at least 24 hours,” said Laule. “Or if he is ill and miserable I would keep him home because if he has his head on the desk all day it is not helpful and he will just spread it to somebody else.” Encourage your child to stay away from anyone who he knows is sick. If you are concerned, bring your child to the pediatrician. “If it has just been a few days and the kid is acting fine there is probably not a whole lot we can do for them,” said Laule. Usually kids just require rest, plenty of fluids and some over-the-counter medicines to help with symptom relief. While every season comes with its own set of challenges, winter tends to be a harder time of year for people, so it is a good idea to focus on prevention.