The back-to-school cold is a rude invader, sneaking into classrooms unannounced and exposing kids to sniffles, sneezes and who knows what else. You can’t prevent them from coming in contact with cold germs, but you can help protect them from getting sick with these strategies suggested by health care experts.
Create a Regular Sleep Routine
The nights before school starts can be exciting as kids eek out that last little bit of summer vacation and make plans for the school year ahead. That makes it all the more important to help them begin working their way back into a normal sleep routine before the big day. Quality, restful sleep is crucial to immune system wellness. Researchers at the University of San Diego say even modest sleep deprivation can reduce the body’s immunity by 30 percent.
After children reach a certain age, it can be difficult to dictate a sleep routine. Instead of trying to force a lights-off policy, try to lead by example. If you get enough sleep for your unique needs, they are likely to do the same.
The Power of Probiotics
Probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, are 'friendly' bacteria in our intestines and increasingly recognized for their importance not only in maintaining a healthy digestive system, but for supporting the body's natural defense mechanisms. Whether you choose to use supplements or include probiotic-rich foods (like yogurt) in your family’s diet, you’ll feel better knowing that studies have shown that probiotics can support the body's normal resistance to bacterial and viral infections.
Consider Food Choices
Did you know that eating foods high in sugar and fat can suppress the immune system? Think carefully about the foods that will support health and the vitamins and nutrients they contain, like vitamin C. A well balanced diet will help your child maintain a strong immune system, so stock up the pantry with healthy foods and be sure to include them in lunch boxes and after school snacks.
Teach Proper Hand Washing Technique
Little reminders to "wash your hands!" are a great start, but most kids don't wash their hands as often or as well as they should. Because hand-washing is the first line of defense against the cold, flu, and other contagious illnesses, it's valuable to remind children how and when to do it. Encourage hand-washing before handling food, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Teach children to use warm water and work up a good soapy lather with a natural hand soap. Scrub for about 20 seconds (that's about two rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") rubbing between fingers, under nails, and over the backs of hands.
Encourage Kids Not To Share Utensils and Cups with Friends
Kids naturally love to share, but it's not a good idea to share eating utensils with friends, especially during cold and flu season. Since viruses and bacteria are easily transmitted through saliva, this is one type of sharing that you should teach your child to avoid.
Get Tissues for Your Issues!
Encourage children to cover their mouths with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and to dispose of the tissue themselves. No time to grab a tissue? Encourage younger children to "catch" their cough in their bent inner elbow, not in their hand. Older kids can be taught to act like they're holding a cape across their face like Dracula. Teach your children to wash their hands immediately after coughing or sneezing. Ask the teacher to mention overing noses and mouths in the classroom, too!
Helping kids learn how to avoid bringing home the back-to-school cold is no picnic, but if your child gets sick then chances are you and the rest of your family members will also become ill. Follow these tips to give everyone a better chance of staying safe and healthy this year.
Here's 12 more tips to make sure your school year starts off well:
- No tissues? Sneeze and cough into your elbow and encourage friends to do the same.
- Avoid germy spots, like the water fountain spout.
- Backpacks carry more than books. Wash them!
- Keep surfaces clean. Encourage a daily desk wipe down.
- Manage stress. Create a daily homework schedule that leaves room for play!
- Avoid sharing hand towels.
- Give yourself some space.
- Get fresh air! Take a break to breathe deep.
- Hydration, hydration, hydration.
- Do I have to separate you two? If you’re talking to the hands and face, then yes. Avoid touching the mouth and nose.
- Look to the sky. A bit of sunshine can work wonders.