BACK TO SCHOOL
How to Keep Your Kids Healthy This Year
As kids and parents gear up for the backto-school season, the excitement and concern over the growing to-do list follow. While school supplies shopping, new uniforms and the dedicated new school shoes are at the top of most parentsâ€™ lists, keeping your childâ€™s health and wellness in mind is probably the most important thing you can do as your family prepares for back-to-school.
Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind:
Stay on track with check-ups and immunizations
If the COVID-19 pandemic puts your familyâ€™s well-visits on hold, hereâ€™s your reminder to get them back on track before your child gets too far into the school year. These types of appointments are critical for assessing milestones and developmental stages and ensuring proper growth and nutrition.
Your pediatrician can help ensure that your child is up to date on immunizations and meets your stateâ€™s requirements to enroll or return to school. Vaccines are the best way to protect your child against serious diseases. This year, children 12 or older are strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine, especially with the recent increase in childhood infections.
Boost immunity with nutrition and probiotics
â€śAn apple a day keeps the doctor awayâ€ť has a little truth to it if apples arenâ€™t the only source of nutrients your kids are getting. Eating healthy has numerous benefits, including boosting the immune system. With children playing, learning and socializing around others in school, the best thing they can do is optimize their immune system for fighting off germs and infection.
Zinc is an essential mineral that your body requires but doesnâ€™t produce naturally. It helps keep your body strong, helps heal wounds and supports normal growth. Eating protein-based foods such as poultry and red meat, and beans and nuts are great options for providing zincrich nutrition.
Keeping a healthy gut with a good balance of probiotics can also help boost your childâ€™s immune system. Foods like yogurt, pickles and sauerkraut are good sources of fiber and contain friendly bacteria that help the digestive system.
A healthy diet full of whole, minimally processed food can help your child equip themselves with the vitamins and minerals they need to grow and develop properly. It also helps keep a healthy immune system and maintain a healthy weight, stabilize their mood, sharpen their mind and avoid other serious health problems. A daily multivitamin certainly wouldnâ€™t hurt either.
Maintain good sleep habits
Restful sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and for children, its impact extends to the classroom. Studies have shown that kids who regularly get adequate sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory and overall mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, depression and even hyperactivity.
Make sure youâ€™re establishing a consistent bedtime routine. Your routine should include putting away electronics, turning off screens an hour before bed and limiting caffeine in the afternoon and evening. It can also include taking a warm bath, reading a short book or going through a brief meditation. Giving your child a chance to â€śwind downâ€ť can help create better sleep habits and improve their performance during the school day.
Promote regular hand hygiene
Itâ€™s near impossible to keep those tiny little hands from touching anything and everything. Especially in a school environment where countless other hands are also touching surfaces, hand hygiene is critical to keeping your kids healthy. Washing your hands for 20 seconds with warm soap and water can reduce bacteria and germs that cause infections. Teaching your child a song to wash their hands to is often helpful to ensure they are washing for the appropriate amount of time. Examples of songs include â€śHappy Birthdayâ€ť and â€śRow, Row, Row Your Boat.â€ť Keeping hand sanitizer in your childâ€™s backpack as a quick go-to can also help alleviate germs if washing with soap and water is not an option. Cleaning your hands not only prevents you from catching germs but from spreading them, too â€“ especially to others who might be more susceptible to getting sick.
Kids need to keep their bodies moving. That doesnâ€™t necessarily mean running on a treadmill or lifting weights, as most adults would imagine. For children, exercise means playing and being physically active. Gym class, recess, soccer practice or dance class are all healthy and beneficial exercises for kids. Active kids are shown to have stronger muscles and bones, less risk of becoming overweight, a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and a more positive outlook on life. Parents should help encourage their kids to get involved with various activities to promote endurance, strength and flexibility.
So, while youâ€™re out shopping for notebooks and pencils, pick up a bottle of hand sanitizer, a few healthy snacks, and call your primary care provider or pediatrician to schedule those check-ups!
Dr. Amanda Callegan-Pocheâ€™ is a primary care physician at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport- Internal Medicine and Pediatrics located in the Provenance neighborhood of South Shreveport. To learn more, visit ochsnerlsuhs.org or call 318-626-0100 for appointments.