School campuses have long been known as incubators for germs, and children typically get six to eight colds per year, according to Stanford Children’s Health. The continued presence of COVID-19 is adding another layer of concern as this academic year begins.
Fortunately, some of the hygiene practices we’ve learned during the pandemic can help us prevent other illnesses from spreading as well. Maintaining kids’ overall health through nutrition, physical activity and sleep boosts their immune system, as well.
A diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins is as important, if not more so, for kids than adults. Make sure they eat a solid breakfast and pack lunches with up to 2 ounces of healthy protein such as turkey, chicken, beans (including hummus), cottage or string cheese. Round it out with the healthiest whole grains they will eat and some cut-up veggies or fruit. Using bento-style lunch boxes can make them more fun and kid-friendly.
Your children will be busy with classes and homework, but encourage them to be physically active for an hour or more each day through backyard play, sports leagues or whatever form of exercise they will enjoy and keep up with.
Sleep is equally important and needs to be prioritized, even when it’s difficult to fit the recommended nine to 11 hours into crowded family schedules.
Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent disease, so make sure kids have all the typically required shots for returning to school, and ensure all who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine (ages 12 and older as of press time) receive that as well, to guard against illness and transmission. Be aware of their school’s face mask policy and teach them the proper way to use and store a mask whenever they’re required.
The next-best way to prevent illness is to continue encouraging the hand-washing habits that have been drilled into everyone’s heads over the last year and a half. Use soap and water and wash the entire surface of your hands for 20 seconds before rinsing well.