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Health Watch

Staying Healthy During the School Year

Kids playing outside after schoolMost students are back to school now, which means they’re back to being in closer contact with more people than they would be during the summer. That, in turn, means an increase in the potential of coming in contact with germs and illness, especially during cold and flu season. But parents can help students increase their chances of staying healthy during the school year.

  1. Stress the importance of washing hands. Remind kids how to wash their hands, and when. It is important to wash hands after using the bathroom, before eating food, and after coughing, sneezing or nose-blowing. Washing hands helps students from spreading germs and illnesses.
  2. Ensure students get adequate sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends school-aged children (6-13 years old) get 9-11 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers get 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Sleep helps reduce stress, boosts the immune system, and increases the ability to concentrate (that last one may not help keep kids healthy, but they may get better grades!). Sleep ideally occurs between the same hours every day, including on the weekends.
  3. Eat healthy – especially at breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it helps with brain function and helps students maintain a steady level of energy throughout the day. Students can’t concentrate on an empty stomach anyway. Even if it means cutting short a student’s sleep by 10 minutes, fitting breakfast into the day is worth it.
  4. Tell students not to share food or drinks. While it makes for great camaraderie, sharing food and drinks can mean kids share germs or illness with each other, usually unknowingly.
  5. Get your kids to play after school, outside if the weather allows for it. According to the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, children and teens 6-17 years old need at least an hour of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity. Exercise helps strengthen bones and muscles, improves cognition and reduces symptoms of depression. While exercise itself cannot directly ward off germs, good fitness can help boost the immune system.

If your student does get sick, it’s important to keep him or her home from school to reduce the chance of spreading illness to others. Who knows, they may get caught up on schoolwork while they’re home!

Washing hands is one of the top ways to stay healthy at school

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