3 Important Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy When School is in Session

3 ways to keep kids healthy in school: Center for Family Medicine

Back to the long days, jam-packed schedules, endless hours of homework, rushed dinners, and dragging kids out of bed in the morning. Jumping back in to that stressful lifestyle can be really draining on our bodies. So the question is this–now that kids are going back to school, how in the world do we keep them healthy? 

It’s truly a challenge to keep your kids healthy during another year in close quarters with hundreds of other germy students. While it’s not possible to prevent your children from ever catching a cold, there are great steps you can take to strengthen their immune systems and make sure they stay as healthy as possible throughout even the toughest times of the year.

1. Keep immunizations up-to-date. Immunizations are an important way to protect your children from harmful, sometimes life-threatening diseases. By following a proper immunization schedule, you can protect your child from 14 preventable diseases. The CDC recommends the following vaccine schedule for school-age children:

Between the ages of 4 and 6, your child should have the following vaccinations:

Diptheria, Tetanus, and Whooping Cough (DTap)
Polio (IPV)
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)
Chickenpox (Varicela)
Flu (each year)

Between the ages of 7 and 10, your child should have the following vaccinations if they have not already completed them at a younger age:

Diptheria, Tetanus, and Whooping Cough (if they have not received the entire series of DTap vaccine)
Hepatitis A (HepA)
Pneumococcal (PCV–protects against pneumonia)
Flu (each year)

Between the ages of 11 and 18, your child should have the following vaccinations:

Meningococcal Conjugate (protects against meningitis)
HPV (both boys and girls need 3 doses)
Tdap (protects against tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis)
Flu (each year)
Serogroup B Meningococcal (preferred between 16 and 18 years old)

2. Instill good habits. There are many great habits you can teach your children that will help them stay healthy during the school year. Begin instilling these habits at an early age, and be sure to lead by example. Kids will be much more willing to embrace habits when they see you performing the same actions on a daily basis. Check out a few of the most important habits that will keep their little bodies super healthy:

Make sure they get enough sleep. Sleep is the body’s time to rejuvenate–if your child isn’t getting enough sleep, it can seriously impact their immune system. It is recommended that elementary-age children get 10-11 hours of sleep per night, and 9-9 1/2 hours for teens (although many teens get far less sleep than they need, because of busy schedules and changes in sleep patterns). The transition to a new school year can be especially challenging–many kids become accustomed to later nights during the summer months, and a sudden change just won’t work. Be sure to start gradually moving your daily bedtime routine earlier each night for a few weeks before school starts. This will help your child adjust to the different bedtime schedule. Busy schedules during the school year can make it hard to stick to an earlier bedtime, but sleep should definitely be made a priority. 

Pack a healthy lunch. Lunch is an important part of the school day–a great lunch provides fuel for the brain and important nutrients for the body. Eating well helps your child’s immune system, and a balanced diet is incredibly important. It can seem like a challenge to build a healthy lunch that your child can take to school, but it’s really not that hard. Check out this article from Parents magazine for some really awesome brown bag lunch ideas. 
Exercise! You might think your children get enough exercise once they get out of school and run around the playground at warp speed, but the truth is, they spend most of their day at school sitting down. Just like us, our kids need lots of exercise to keep their bodies strong. Exercise also improves mood and strengthens your body’s immune system. Bike rides, nature walks, and playing sports in your yard or at the park are all great ways to exercise together and get in some fun family time. 
Good hygiene. Teaching good hygiene will go a long way in protecting your child from germs. Make sure that kids learn the proper way to wash their hands at an early age (make sure they are using soap and warm water), and when to wash them–always wash after using the bathroom, before eating, and when coming home from being out (playing in the yard, at school, at the store, etc…). Kids should also be reminded to keep fingers out of their noses and mouths, and to cover their coughs to decrease the spread of germs. 

3. Routine check-ups and doctor visits. Even if your child is not sick, visiting the doctor is important. Routine check-ups can help ensure that your child is growing properly and nip any worrisome issues in the bud. Children should have a physical every year at their pediatrician. Doctor visits are also an excellent opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about your child’s health or development. There are also several great resources that you can refer to when you have questions about your child’s health (these resources are not intended to take the place of regular doctor visits):

Healthy Kids (American Heart Association)
Action for Healthy Kids
Health for Kids (sponsored by USAGov)
Healthy Children (American Academy of Pediatrics)

Going back to school is a challenge for both parents and children. It can be difficult to juggle everything and still have much-needed down time with your family. Stress, lack of sleep, and unhealthy eating habits can weaken our immune systems, putting your children at risk for picking up a lot of dangerous germs at school. Keeping your children up-to-date on vaccinations, practicing healthy habits, and scheduling routine visits for check-ups can greatly aid in your child’s defense against illness. Please feel free to contact us to learn about more ways to keep your child healthy during the school year.