By Deanna Lynn Sletten
A new school year means your child will be bringing home a host of colds and flus that seem to be passed around throughout the winter. Missed school days not only mean missed time for your child, but also missed work days for you. The best way to prevent your child from catching every bug in school is to keep your child as healthy as possible and teach him habits that will ward off illness. Here are five ways to keep your child healthy this school year.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet goes a long way toward building up a strong immune system that will fight off cold and flu germs. Make sure your child is eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day with at least two of those being of the orange or yellow variety. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, like oranges, kiwis, grapefruit, mangoes, sweet potatoes and carrots, contain important disease-fighting carotenoids and flavonoids. Minerals play an important part in keeping your child healthy too so include foods high in calcium, potassium, zinc and magnesium as well as protein-rich foods. Milk, yogurt and cheese are high in calcium while bananas, raisins and grapes are rich in potassium. High-protein foods like red meats, seafood, chicken and peanut butter are also a good source of zinc and nuts, seeds, brown rice and whole-wheat pastas are excellent sources of magnesium.
Sleep deprivation lowers the body’s ability to fight off disease as well as affects your child’s ability to concentrate and retain knowledge. You child should get the proper number of hours of sleep on school nights to keep her immune system strong. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that children ages 3 to 5 years old should have between 11 and 13 hours of sleep each night and children ages 5 to 12 should have 10 to 11 hours of sleep.
No matter what time of year it is, children need time outside running off energy. Studies show that spending time outdoors and getting daily exercise prevents obesity, improves mood, helps children sleep better at night and boosts their immune system. If it is too cold in the winter where you live, try taking your children to an indoor pool or gymnasium where they can burn off energy. Spending more time outside and exercising and less time in front of the television set or computer will help your child be healthier overall.
We’ve all been schooled on how important washing our hands is in the fight against germs but children don’t always understand the importance of a good hand washing. Explain to your younger children that in order to stay healthy, it is best to always wash their hands with soap or sanitizer after a bathroom break and also after playing with toys they share with other children or playing outside. Make hand washing fun by having your child sing a favorite short song or say a nursery rhyme while he is washing his hands so he does a thorough job. Older children and teens may want to keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in their backpack or locker so they can quickly clean their hands between classes when they can’t get to a sink. Teaching your child good hand washing habits will help ward off germs that might otherwise make them sick.
We all want our children to share with others but it is best to teach your child not to share their food or drink straw or cup with other children. Germs spread easily when children eat from other children’s food, so tell your child that for health reasons, it is okay not to share food and drinks with others.
Teaching your child good health habits now will not only help him prevent illness during the school year but will stick with him so he stays healthier throughout the years.