School is officially back in session, and parents and kids alike are getting back into the swing of things. As kids come home with more vocabulary lists, flash cards and book reports, they are also coming home with more germs.
No parent wants to have a sick child, especially when it can be avoided by following these tips, courtesy of Ruth Gallagher, NP-C, PhD, CNE and Director of Nursing Academic Services at Utica College.
Good Hand Washing
Nurse Gallagher’s first tip for helping kids stay healthy is to get them to wash their hands frequently. Of course everybody knows to wash your hands after using the restroom, but kids typically do not wash their hands often enough or for long enough. While kids are in school, they are constantly interacting with other children, teachers and their environment. Whether sharing crayons, playing with jump ropes in gym or touching a door handle, they’re constantly transmitting germs to one another. Although they can’t wash their hands after touching every little thing, it is important for them to know to wash their hands before eating, after using the restroom and after sneezing or coughing. Teach them to sing the ABCs while using warm water and plenty of soap to make sure they’re washing for long enough
A Nourishing Diet
If it were up to them, many kids would live on a diet consisting of chips, pop and candy, with a few chicken fingers tossed in as a garnish. While kids may think those are the only necessary food groups, staying healthy requires a lot more fruits, vegetables and protein.
Poor nutrition can lead to a poor immune system. And while it may be easy to say kids need to have plenty of fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein, many kids are picky. Instead of cutting out all vegetables because a child hates broccoli, work around the pickiness. Let him or her choose some veggies and fruits at the grocery store. There are also some nutritional drinks made for children that could help balance out a diet.
Shots aren’t fun, but immunizations are important to maintain health. According to Nurse Gallagher, it’s critical to make sure all kids have all of their immunizations up to date. You can help keep your own child and other children healthy with a simple trip to your primary care provider.
Plenty of Rest
Kids are full of energy, bounding from one activity to another without a moment’s pause. But even they must stop moving eventually and recharge. Nurse Gallagher emphasizes that kids need plenty of sleep. Babies should get between 12 and 18 hours of sleep per day, toddlers should get between 11 and 12 hours and school-aged children should get up to 10 hours per day. Teens and adults require less sleep, only about eight hours per day. Keep a routine going for children so they get plenty of rest, even if that means a nap in the middle of the day. Although they may fight naps, you will all appreciate it when they get through the school year without the flu or a horrible cold.
Knowing When to Stay Home
If your child does end up sick, it’s important to keep the illness from spreading. Nurse Gallagher strongly recommends keeping a child home if he or she is coughing, sneezing or has any other nasal discharge. While a child may feel okay enough to go to classes, going to school with these symptoms will only spread the illness to the others. Always keep your child home if he or she has a fever and contact your primary care provider.
Providing for Others
Teachers are typically required to provide their own tissues and antibacterial soap for the classroom, and these are typically the fastest materials to disappear. Donate plenty of tissues and antibacterial soap to your child’s classroom every couple of months so children who do come in with colds can avoid spreading it.
If you’re ready to learn more from Utica College nursing staff, contact us to speak with a personal advisor.