Schools can be germ factories. With large numbers of kids learning together in small rooms all day, it’s no wonder that illness can spread quickly through a classroom.
The most common illnesses include:
- Strep throat
- Pink eye
- Fifth disease
- Head lice
Although you can’t eliminate childhood illness entirely, prevention is critical. Here’s what to do to keep your kids healthy at school.
Immunizations can help prevent 16 different childhood diseases – including some with very serious consequences. Depending on where your child attends, the school or facility may require a number of immunizations to attend.
An annual flu shot by the end of October every year can help keep everyone in the family healthy. Even if you catch the flu anyway, the shot ensures that you and your children will have milder symptoms. And don’t worry about “catching” the flu from the shot. That tiredness you feel the next day is just your body at work, building antibodies against the flu.
The pandemic slowed vaccination schedules for many children. If you couldn’t keep to your pediatrician’s recommended schedule for the past couple of years, now is the time to catch your child up.
Support Immune Function
First of all, there is no one proven method of boosting the immune system. However, some habits do help keep your child (and you!) healthy more than others, such as:
- Getting enough sleep
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Managing stress
- Making time to laugh
- Emphasizing hand washing
As interest in herbal supplements or extra vitamins grows, consult your pediatrician or primary care physician before giving anything to your children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend vitamin supplements for healthy children who eat a varied diet. It’s better that they get their vitamins from the food they eat, and taking an excess of some vitamins can be toxic.
Hand washing is the single best thing you can do every day to combat the spread of illness.
Teach your children to wash with soap and water, cleaning their hands for at least 20 seconds. Try having them sing Happy Birthday twice or find another song or way of timing that your kids enjoy.
Kids tend to touch their faces a lot — they rub their eyes, scratch their noses, and sometimes touch items to their faces that have been, well, somewhere else first.
Encourage them to wash:
- After blowing their nose
- After going to the bathroom
- After playing outside or playing with a pet
- Before eating
If hand washing isn’t possible, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Have your kids use it before eating snacks or sharing items like computer mice or water fountains. Some disinfecting wipes may be helpful, too.
Take Care of Mental Health
Mental health has been in the news a lot recently, but it’s nothing new. Kids are in a variety of stressful situations that create anxiety. They always have, and each generation dealt with it differently. However, some of those ways weren’t so helpful.
Watch for signs of anxiety and stress from schoolwork, social pressure, and tests. Anxiety has a negative effect on health.
Help children identify parts of their life they can control, like what they wear and how they spend their time. Then work with them to find effective ways to de-stress after school. Personalize stress management, as each child is different. Contact your pediatrician if your efforts aren’t working.
Kids need enough sleep to function. Do they get it? Probably not.
Between the computer, smartphone, television, and just plain stubbornness, most children and teenagers don’t get the amount of sleep they need.
Studies show kids get less sleep than they did a century ago, and those statistics include people from around the world. The rate of sleep loss is most significant on school days.
To encourage a healthy sleep schedule, create a predictable routine, even setting a bedtime for the older kids. Provide reassurance if stress interferes with sleep. And model good sleep habits yourself.
Lack of sleep can lead to:
- Poor concentration
- Suicidal ideation
Plainly, sleep is essential for school success.
Diet and Exercise
A healthy diet and regular exercise help the brain function, decrease stress, and keep kids growing.
Children grow from the time they’re born, and all that growing requires proper nutrition — it’s why kids want to eat all the time. Eating several small meals throughout the day keeps blood sugar stable and keeps them from overeating.
Try to provide a healthy breakfast with lean protein and complex carbohydrates to start the day off right and give everyone healthy snacks after school. Kids need the energy to keep going, so providing nourishing snacks can help them going for longer.
When to Keep Children Home
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid all illness. To keep as many healthy as possible, keep your child home if they have the following symptoms:
- A fever over 100.4 degrees F. The child must be fever-free (without fever-reducing medication) for at least 24 hours before they return to school
- Vomiting more than once
- Frequent cough
- Persistent pain
- Widespread rash
- Head lice until treated
- Bacterial pink eye
Create an action plan for times when your child must stay out of school. If you work or cannot stay home with your child, look a care situation that accepts sick children or a way to juggle your schedule so an adult will be with them at home.
You can’t keep your kids from ever getting sick. Still, you can reduce illness and encourage good habits by following these tips for keeping your children healthy at school. If your child requires emergency treatment for any illness or injury, come to Family First ER. We have staff experienced in pediatric and teen health care.
Your family receives the best care at Family First ER.