The dog says of summer are quickly coming to an end and soon it will be time to send our children back to school or college. With the first week of August a flurry of preparation for both students and parents is in full swing. New backpacks, new school supplies, new clothes, new shoes, meeting new teachers and the renewing of friendships (who isn’t already in touch with their friends to see what everyone is wearing on that “all important” first day of class?) all go along with the excitement that back to school brings. With all this activity, it’s also very important to take some time to plan for back to school health.
Returning to classes filled with students in close quarters means more germs and for many children, more illness. This doesn’t need to happen, if parents take time to prepare ways in which to keep their children healthy. So grab a pen and paper or bookmark this article because I have some effective back to school health tips to help you promote good health and well-being in your children.
10 Back To School Health Tips to Keep Your Children Healthy
1) Show Your Hands!
Since there is a bit of time before the beginning of school, now is a good time to introduce or reinforce to your children the importance of hand washing. Get your children into the habit of washing their hands before eating and after bathroom use. Good old soap and warm water is just as effective as hand sanitizers which contain toxic chemicals such as triclosan. Be aware that antibacterial soaps can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms. Your back to school health list should always include frequent reminders for your children to wash their hands.
2) Coughing, Sneezing, Runny Nose – Oh My!
Teach your children the importance of coughing and sneezing into their sleeve or a tissue, if one is available. Place a small package of tissue in your children’s backpacks with a reminder to immediately throw away any used tissues.
3) When it’s OK Not to Share.
Teach your children that certain items are not shared. These include eating utensils, drinking cups, water bottles, pens/pencils, cell phones, grooming articles, cosmetics, etc. This is especially important during cold and flu season and placed as high priority on your back to school health list. Provide your children access to their own personal school supplies, tissues, water bottles, etc.
4) Keep the Mouth Sparkling Clean.
Educate your children not only in the importance of brushing their teeth and gums at least two times daily, but also about the health benefits of a clean mouth. Many bacteria enter through the mouth. Choose a fluoride-free and non-toxic tooth paste or make your own homemade tooth powder.
5) ZZZ’s are Important.
With all the excitement of going back to school which includes getting back into the swing of homework and project deadlines as well as extra-curricular activities, children can quickly become sleep deprived. In fact, the power of adequate sleep cannot be overstated. Without an enforced sleep regimen, older children and teens can show signs of sleep deprivation which includes fatigue, headaches, slow metabolic rates, moodiness and decreased ability to focus and pay attention. It’s wise to make sure children of all ages begin getting back into a healthy sleep schedule before school starts. Keep computers, TV’s and cell phones out of the bedroom. Set an age-appropriate bedtime for your children and stick to it – even on the weekends. Most healthcare professionals agree that children 5 to 12 years old need approximately 10 hours of sleep per night while older, high school aged children need about 9 hours. The body does a tremendous amount of healing and repair work between the hours of 10:00 PM and 3:00 AM. Keep in mind that when the body is sleep deprived the immune system becomes sluggish and thus the body terrain is ripe for illness.
6) What’s for Breakfast & Lunch?
Teaching your children how to make healthy food choices by example is, in my opinion, one of the most important life-long lessons a parent can pass on to their children. Food is what fuels and nourishes the entire body, including the brain. It is proven over and over that children who eat healthy, nutritious meals and avoid pre-packaged and sugary foods require less doctor visits, resist more illness, have less difficulty with concentration, attention and memory and are actually happier than those who feast on a constant diet of HFCS, fast foods and pre-packaged foods laden with chemicals. Require your children to eat breakfast every morning – preferably food that is not pre-packaged. A nutritious breakfast (boxed cereals do not qualify as healthy) helps to get one’s metabolism going and helps the body to eliminate efficiently. Breakfast smoothies packed full of nutritious fruit, healthy greens and essential fatty acids are quick, easy, very healthy and best of all taste great! If possible skip the cafeteria and snack bar menus by providing a homemade lunch for your children. A piece of organic fruit along with a wholesome sandwich that includes a protein source and lots of veggies on gluten-free bread is nutrient-dense and will satisfy hunger and provide energy. Add a small bag of raw veggies and healthy dip for added fiber and nutrition. Provide your children with a personal water bottle that includes its own filter so that they have access to clean and pure water all day long. Teach them the importance of water and keeping their body hydrated. Be sure to have healthy after-school snacks available for your children. Suggestions include ready-to-eat cold fruit slices, sliced veggies, homemade salsa and homemade sweet potato chips, homemade trail mix in pre-portioned bags, fruit smoothies using almond milk or coconut milk, etc. Ask your children to come up with ideas for healthy snacks and healthy lunches. One last mention – make sure that all fruits, veggies, etc. are organic and effectively washed and prepared. Also it is vital to keep kitchen countertops and cutting boards properly disinfected (use non-toxic soaps or cleaning products).
7) Exercise and Sunshine Count.
Believe it or not but recess and structured PE classes are a thing of the past in many schools. Children need a time to run off energy, soak up sunshine and de-stress. Require that your children go outdoors for some play time after school. Sunshine encourages Vitamin D3 production in the body which in turn can help with stress. Encourage teens to take a walk/jog every afternoon or to get involved with an outdoor sports activity. Make sure to provide adequate hydration for all outside activities. If you live in an area where sunshine is minimal consider supplementing your child’s diet with a liquid Vitamin D3. I recommend having Vitamin D3 levels checked first. Consider making a weekday rule that if the weather permits outdoor activities, access to TV/video games/computer time is not available.
8) Open Elimination Routes.
Children have four elimination routes for the removal of toxins – breathing, sweating, urination and defecation. Girls also acquire an extra elimination route with the onset of menses. While each elimination route is important, bowel health is extremely important, but often a subject that makes everyone uncomfortable and thus often ignored. Because at least 70% of the immune system resides in the small and large intestine, it is important that parents keep tabs on their children’s bowel health. For more information about bowel health, please read my article, Children Get Constipated, Too. Healthy eating, adequate exercise, proper hydration and rest go a long way in ensuring your child’s elimination routes work effectively. If your child develops bowel health issues, such as constipation, I recommend Oxy-Powder which can help with elimination in a safe and effective manner. Also a review of your child’s diet, exercise, stress levels and hydration is a good idea.
9) Natural Supplements.
I believe all children, especially during the school year, should take a daily children’s organic multi-vitamin/mineral supplement such as intraKID, a non-acidic, a neutral pH Vitamin C powder such as Vitality C and a high-quality probiotic. While supplements should never be a replacement for a healthy diet, they can fill in the gaps and help provide a sturdy nutritional foundation. Studies have proven that the daily use of probiotics reduce the incidence of illness as well as help prevent the onset of cold and flu symptoms throughout the year. According to the results of one study, “When compared to a placebo group, the groups that received the single and combination probiotic supplements reduced their fever incidence by 53% and 72.7% respectively. Coughing was reduced by 41.4% and 62.1% and runny noses lessened by 28.2% and 58.5%. The duration and severity of cold and flu symptoms were also significantly reduced in the children receiving the probiotics. Because of their enhanced natural defenses, these children had less need for prescription antibiotics and missed fewer days of childcare.” See the study reference here. We are living in tough financial times and less time spent in the doctor’s office can result in a huge savings for most families. One of the most effective probiotics on the market today and the one that our family uses is Latero-Flora which contains Bacillus Laterosporus BOD. The veggie capsules are small and can be opened and put on foods or in smoothies. The action of Bacillus Laterosporus BOC is three-fold. First these organisms attack and help to eliminate pathogenic organisms such as Salmonella, E.Coli and Streptococci. They also create a hostile environment against viruses. Second, they stimulate the immune system to produce more antibodies against bacteria and viruses. Lastly, Bacillus Laterosporus BOD improves digestion by completely breaking down food in the intestines and assists in the elimination of toxins. Long term exposure to incomplete digestion and toxins is implicated as the cause of many chronic diseases.
10. When Sick – Stay Home.
No matter how much we strive to keep our children healthy, at some point illness will occur. During the school year, illnesses that seem to spread like wildfire are usually caused because children come to school sick. It’s not fair to your child to go to school sick and it’s not fair to expose other children. If your child is running a fever, complaining of a sore throat, stomach ache and/or headache, has a runny nose and/or is exhibiting a lack of energy, it’s wise to take a break, stay home and rest. Should more symptoms appear or continually get worse, a consult with a trusted healthcare professional is in order. When the body is not well, it needs rest, hydration, healthy food (veggies, fruits and hydration) and some down time. Hearty and healthy soup is one of the best foods for cold and flu symptoms. I suggest a soup that we have used in our family for years — Dr. Lanphier’s Healthy Chicken/Vegetable Soup . The ingredients in the soup can be adjusted for those who are vegetarians. A warm serving of Health Chicken/Vegetable Soup as well as a plate of fresh, raw veggies with a homemade dip will provide satisfying nourishment and can help to rev-up the immune system. Also, when dealing with any illness, remember to keep your child well-hydrated with clean water and not sugar drinks.
Before you go…
Children who learn to implement healthy habits at a young age exhibit less emotional turmoil and greater focus and problem solving skills during their school years. There is absolutely nothing to lose in getting your children involved in their own health and wellness and there is no better time as when families begin their back to school routines. Call a family meeting and discuss ways in which the above suggestions can be implemented in your own family. Don’t go over-board with requirements, but instead ease into some of these suggestions until they become habit. Then tackle a few more. It won’t be long until everyone realizes that practicing illness prevention really does help one to feel and look their best and even keeps emotions and stress balanced! From myself and OAWHealth.com – much success and good health to all students and parents during the coming school year!