Ten Timely Tips for Keeping Kids Healthy at School

Sleeping woman

A new school year has begun. Wouldn’t it be great if your child didn’t bring home every cold and stomach bug that comes along? Here are some tips that can help your child stay healthy and learn good health habits along with all the math, reading, and social studies.

1. Keep hands clean.

Proper handwashing is one of the most effective ways to help prevent the spread of illnesses. It’s especially important for school-age children who are in close contact with others and who share materials throughout the day. Here’s a guide to washing hands correctly.

  • Turn on the tap until the water is warm, but not too hot.
  • Work up a soapy lather.
  • Wash palms, the backs of hands, fingers, and under nails.
  • Wash as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
  • Dry hands on a paper towel.
  • Use that towel to turn off the water and open the door. Throw the paper out after leaving.1

The Mayo Clinic recommends giving your child alcohol-based sanitizer to keep handy. Kids can use it before eating snacks or lunch and after using a shared computer, pencil sharpener, water fountain or other community objects.2

2. Keep hands out of the eyes, mouth and nose.

If your child touches something that someone with a cold has touched and then touches his eyes or mouth, the cold virus can enter his body. Infections such as pink eye can also be transmitted by touching eyes after touching an object that has been handled by someone with the infection.1

3. Don’t share water bottles, food or other personal items.

Here’s a simple rule to share with your child: If you put the item in your mouth, keep it to yourself.2

4. Keep kids current on vaccinations, including a yearly flu shot

This can help protect both your child and those he or she comes in contact with. It can also help keep your child from catching the flu and bringing it home to the rest of your family.2

5. Boost your whole family’s immune system.

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein help support the body’s immune system.
  • Get enough sleep. Losing as little as a few hours of sleep in one night may increase inflammation in the body and interfere with its ability to keep itself healthy. “Sleep is crucial to immune system function,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. “People underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep.”
  • Exercise. Studies have shown that moderate, regular exercise may boost immune system function. As little as 30 minutes most days can help.
  • Manage stress. Stress can lower the number and effectiveness of natural infection-fighting cells. Try to manage your child’s stress and do what you can to keep your own under control, too.
  • Avoid habits that can weaken the immune system, such as smoking, lack of sleep, poor diet, and, lack of exercise.1

6. Laugh out loud.

Laughter may actually boost immune system function and reduce the levels of stress hormones and increase feel-good hormones.1 A sense of humor is good medicine. Helping kids laugh – and laugh it off – can be a big help.

7. Give kids a brain-boosting breakfast.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. It’s important for brain function and for maintaining a steady level of energy throughout the day. Here are some practical suggestions to help make sure that your kids get a good breakfast:

  • Stock up on healthy breakfast options such as fruits, peanut or almond butter, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and whole grain cereals. Choose cereals that are low in sugar and list whole grains as one of the top ingredients.
  • Prepare as much as you can the night before.
  • Get everyone up 10 minutes earlier.
  • Let kids help plan and prepare breakfast.
  • Have a few grab-and-go alternatives for rushed mornings. Keep fresh fruit, yogurt, trail mix, nuts and the like on hand.3

8. Pack a healthy lunch.

An easy way to pack a balanced lunch is to think about the different food groups. What will be the whole grain, the dairy, fruit, vegetables, and protein source? One example of a good combination is lean turkey and cheese on a whole grain pita, with apple slices and carrots.2

9. Pick the right backpack.

An overloaded backpack can cause back, shoulder, and neck pain. It can even affect a child’s balance and lead to falls. Here are things to keep in mind when choosing a backpack:

  • Choose the kind with two straps and avoid the sling style.
  • Make sure the straps are well padded.
  • The loaded backpack should weigh no more than 10% of the child’s body weight.4

10. Get kids to play outside after school.

It’s a great way to increase kids’ physical activity, reduce time watching TV and playing video games, and have fun. If you join your kids, you’ll help yourself and be a good role model at the same time.5


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