How to prevent common school illnesses

It’s August 1st, and you know what that means. It is officially back to school season. Summer camps are coming to an end and the days of living in a swimsuit by the pool are fleeting. Soon parents will be back to a normal schedule of carpool and soccer practice. Kids are trading in squirt guns and slip-n-slides for yellow binders and red pens.

The start of a new school year ignites many new beginnings, but it also leads to nine months of children being exposed to a school full of germs and contagious diseases.

As a way to kick off the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Immunization Awareness month, here are a few tips and tricks that will help keep your family healthy this school year.

Educate yourself on the most common illnesses.

One of the best ways to prevent illness is to educate yourself and your family on what you are trying to prevent.

The most common illnesses among school age children are:

  • Chicken pox
  • Common cold
  • Influenza “Flu”
  • Stomach Flu
  • Strep Throat
  • Lice
  • Hand, Foot, Mouth
  • Pink eye
  • Ringworm
  • Scabies
  • Pinworm

Teach your kids to wash their hands.

One of the best ways to prevent spreading contagious diseases is to wash your hands. After using gym or recess equipment, before eating and after eating, and upon returning home from school, kids should wash their hands with antibacterial soap and warm water to kill any germs lingering on their hands.

Don’t share food or drinks.

The lunch room can be a tempting place to share cookies and juice boxes, but that’s a common way diseases are spread. Remind your kids to eat their own food and avoid sharing with others in order to stay healthy.

Make sure everyone in your household gets enough sleep.

Sleep is extremely important for your metabolism and immune system, no matter what age you are. However, sleep is especially important for growing kids to keep them healthy and happy.  Preschoolers typically needed 11 to 14 hours of sleep. School-aged children need around 9 to 11 hours of sleep, and high schoolers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.

Encourage exercise.

The Department of Health and Human services recommends that children need about an hour of physical activity each day. There are a number of ways to encourage your kids to live an active life, such as limiting screen time, forcing them to spend time outside, or signing them up for organized sports.  

Exercise increases the blood flow throughout your body, which means that your immune system is better circulated. This means that your immune system has a better chance of finding and fighting an illness before it spreads.

Don’t send your kids to school when they are sick. Even if it’s just a cold.

I know it’s hard to take a day off work or find a babysitter when your child comes down with symptoms, but sending them to school with a slight fever or a little cold sets them at a higher risk to contract something more serious. Their immune system is already weakened, fighting to keep them healthy. Sending your child to school with a common cold cold could leave them more vulnerable to catching other illnesses going around the school.

Maintain a balanced diet.

It’s no surprise that getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables can be a struggle when junk food is readily available. Picky eaters can certainly be frustrating, but making sure your kids consume a balanced diet will help boost their immune system. Try serving more foods that are rich in vitamin C and vItamin D, and implement probiotics into their diet as well. If you really struggle to incorporate healthy foods into your children’s diets, consider using smoothies as a way to add more fruits and veggies.

Keep vaccinations up to date.

One of the most effective ways to prevent illnesses is to keep your family’s vaccinations up to date in order to protect them from serious diseases such as chicken pox, meningitis or influenza. Check with your pediatrician to make sure that all vaccinations and boosters are up to date. In fall, you should schedule a family trip to get your annual flu shot.

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