Stay Healthy This School Year

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Beyond routine vaccinations required for school, you can do much more for helping your children stay healthy this year. Of course, supporting good health is important year-round; however, it’s easy to let a few things slide during the long, lazy days of summer.

Here what the experts say:

• “We encourage parents to pack healthful lunches and snacks. It helps support the immune system to fight infections and provides vitamins and minerals help them grow well.

• “Sleep is really important. Most healthy kids need about eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. Recent studies are showing that kids are losing sleep due to over use of digital devices. John Hopkins University recommends putting away electronic devices one hour before bedtime and read or something. Sleep is as important as diet and exercise.

• “With flu, we encourage everyday prevention like staying home when you’re sick, covering nose and mouth with your elbow when sneezing and throwing tissues away.

• “Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available for washing.

• “The flu shots change each year, with a little different formula. It’s based upon what’s predicted to be going around so it is important to get one every year.

• We encourage kids to keep their hands away from their faces because that’s a great way to spread germs to others.

• “Kids are a lot more involved in a variety of activities, so they are busy. The rigors of school do make for a ‘perfect storm’ for them to get sick. They get too little sleep, experience more stress and eat less nutritious meals.”

Diane Oldenburg, senior public health educator, Oswego County Health Department

• “Kids don’t think breakfast is important. It is. If they don’t have time for a sit-down breakfast, a healthful bar or snack they can eat quickly.

• “They need to eat the school lunch; the parents should make sure the children are not eating junk food all day long.

• “Kids should drink more water, not juice and soda. Flavored water is a good alternative. They should get an updated list of medication if they take any, and an allergy game plan for the school.

• “When you’re not feeling great, realize that and not do all your extra-curricular activities. A priority is school and class work. Kids need to remember that.

• “I recommend no TVs in the bedroom. It won’t be a good night’s sleep if they’re excited. Improve sleep hygiene.

• “For proper hand washing, use a reasonable amount of soap, put both hands together to make suds for at least 30 seconds, singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice. Dry the hands. Wash the hand after using the bathroom, before preparing or eating food and any time they’re soiled. Parents need to model this.

• “Know when they need to stay home. You have the child who can’t miss a day and they’ll go when sick. If the child has a 100.5 fever, the child shouldn’t go. If there’s no fever and they feel up to it, they can go. You are somewhat contagious with a mild, common cold, you can still go to school. But if you are sick, get rest. If the child has unexplained rashes or feeling like they really need to lie down. Also, an upset stomach, along with different behavior like wanting to lie down, means the child should stay home.

Roz Odin, pediatrician with Child Health Care Associates, Liverpool