Back-to-School Health Tips

Back-to-School Health Tips | Dr. Ali Ghahary

As another school year begins, the risk of kids getting sick also increases. While it’s not entirely possible to prevent all illnesses, the good news is that by practicing some simple, healthy lifestyle habits – and teaching your kids the importance of them – you will be able to help keep some of those pesky germs at bay and significantly reduce the risk of you and your children developing things like the common cold and influenza.

The utmost important thing when it comes to preventing the aforementioned illnesses is to make sure you are teaching your kids to have good hygiene habits – for example, hand washing. When it comes to hand washing rules, they are as follows: Wet your hands with clean, warm water followed by applying soap and rubbing them together vigorously for at least 20 to 30 seconds, while also ensuring to get the spaces in between the fingers, underneath fingernails, backs of the hands, and the wrists before rinsing off and drying. While hygiene is something that children who are older may understand better, you may have a difficult time getting younger children to practice this important habit. If you do happen to be someone with younger, easily distracted children, try to make hand washing a fun activity for them (or even set up some kind of rewards system) – this way, it will turn into something they actually want to do as opposed to something they feel to be more like a chore/something they have to do. It’s also important to teach kids the reasons why they have to wash their hands by raising their awareness of germs. For example, explain to them that things like desks, countertops, door knobs and keyboards are all breeding grounds for germs and that when they touch these surfaces, they could potentially come into contact with germs that could be harmful to them by rubbing their eyes or nose.

If your child does happen to come down with an illness like a common cold or influenza, it is very possible that they could spread their illness to their peers or adults (i.e. teachers), so it’s also important to be aware of when they should take a sick day and stay home from school. Signs that your child may be in a contagious stage or too ill to attend school include things like fever, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing – and, if your child does happen to exhibit any of these symptoms, then you should take them to see your family doctor or their paediatrician as soon as possible to ensure that their illness is only viral in nature and not bacterial, as a bacterial infection will warrant the use of antibiotics. Common bacterial infections include things like ear and sinus infections, or chest infections such as pneumonia.

Common colds/influenza aren’t the only types of illnesses one has to worry about as a parent with a child or children starting the new school year. Communicable illnesses like the highly contagious measles and/or mumps – which have been in the news more often recently – can also be a concern, which is why it’s a good idea to ensure your child’s immunizations are all up to date prior to them returning to class. Most schools also offer free immunization clinics, so you can also check with school staff about those. For more information on vaccinations and why they are so important, visit www.immunizebc.ca.

Along with practicing good hygiene and making sure immunizations are up to date, there are also other important health habits that parents should ensure their children are making. For example, ensuring they are getting adequate sleep and not spending too much time on devices such as their smartphones, computers, or watching too much television. Getting regular exercise and having a healthy, well-balanced diet is also an important factor in staying healthy and warding off germs. If old enough, and if close enough to school, encourage your children to walk or bike-ride to school (but always make sure they are in groups of 2s, at least.) A child’s diet should also consist of more fruits and vegetables, specifically ones that are rich in vitamin C, as this is also a good defender against illness.