Parents around the country are gleeful as they watch their kiddos hop on the school bus or walk through the school doors. Most are ready to get back to a schedule that includes the chance to have enough time to miss their children. No shame in that. So, the big question now is, how do you keep your kids healthy in school?

Every parent knows that the start of the school year also signals the beginning of cold and flu season, especially anywhere kids congregate. The incredible ability for children to share every germ possible, quickly, is almost a superpower.

How do you slow down the spread? How can you help your child remain healthy during the school year, so he doesn’t miss school? Let’s look at some tips and information.

Good Attendance Is Critical

Research is becoming more and more clear about the essential nature of consistent school attendance. Students who miss an average of two or more days of school per month are less likely to graduate high school.

In addition, absenteeism specifically in September is a significant indicator of how much school a child will miss through the remainder of the year. Students who miss 2-4 days of school in September go on to lose an average of 25 days for the year. Clearly, helping your child to start the year with healthy habits will pay off in the long run. So, how do you help your children avoid the gunk, so they don’t have to stay home from school?

8 Ways to Help Keep Kids Healthy in School

When it comes to trying to avoid absenteeism by helping your students maintain good health, prevention is key. Following these tips and habits will go a long way in keeping your children able to go to school.

1. Establish Good Sleep Habits

Quality, consistent sleep is one of the most important needs your child has. Disrupted or inadequate sleep often leads to forgetfulness, irritability, and inattentiveness. Poor sleep also suppresses the immune system, making your child much more likely to catch any bugs going around. Helping your child to develop and maintain good sleep patterns is one of the best things you can do to set him up for school-year health and success.

2. Establish Healthy Eating Habits

Making sure your child has breakfast each day, even if it is a small amount, will help keep his immune system functioning well. Help your child pack lunches with a variety of healthy items. School lunchtimes are often quite short, so be sure the food in your child’s lunch is nutritionally powerful. Nuts, beans, eggs, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies will keep your child’s body fueled so that it can do its job of fighting off germs.

3. Emphasize Great Hand-Washing Habits

It may be hard to believe it’s only been about 150 years since we learned that hand hygiene halts the spread of disease, but it really is that recent. Fortunately, it is not a complicated process, but it does require consistency. Teach your child to wash after using the restroom, after blowing his nose, and both before and after eating.

4. Teach Your Child How to Cover Coughs and Sneezes Correctly

Many adults still fall into old habits of using their hands to cover their mouths when yawning, coughing, or sneezing. But the proper way to cover up is by using the elbow. This method drastically cuts down on the spread of germs since it is unlikely your child is picking up toys, pencils, or food with his elbow. This one habit is a tremendous help in keeping kids healthy in school.

5. Remind Your Child Not to Share Food and Water Bottles With Friends

This is pretty much a surefire way to spread any illnesses that are lurking. It can be a hard habit for little ones to remember when so much of school time is spent teaching them how to share, but keep reminding them that food and drinks can be shared with family, but not with friends at school. And on the topic of sharing, encourage your children not to share combs, brushes, and hair ties to avoid spreading head lice. It’s every parent’s worst school year nightmare.

6. Be Sure Your Child is Getting Plenty of Exercise and Fresh Air

As more and more schools shorten their recess and PE times, it is critical that your child has time each day to play outside. Fresh air gives your child’s body the oxygen it needs to fight off viruses and bacteria, and it boosts the body’s white blood cells for a healthier immune system.

7. Be Aware of Signs of Anxiety or Depression in Your Child

School can be a stressful place for children. Long days with little opportunity for movement can take a toll on a child’s mental health. Add in academic difficulties, bullying, or worries about world problems, and your child could feel overwhelmed quickly. Watch for indications that your child is struggling with anxiety. Things like irritability, inability to sleep, and a lack of appetite may warrant a talk with the school counselor or your child’s pediatrician.

8. Don’t Over-Sanitize

This may sound counterintuitive, but research is becoming more and more clear that children need to spend some time getting dirty. Our gut needs a variety of microbes to help keep us healthy, and playing in the dirt helps us get those microbes. Avoid the urge to buy antibacterial and antimicrobial everything. Over-sanitizing your child’s world likely will have the opposite effect from what you anticipate and could stop him from staying healthy during the school year.

In spite of your best efforts, it is still likely that your child will catch something during the school year. Your child’s school should have an illness policy to help determine if your student needs to stay home. Be sure to follow this policy to avoid further spreading illness at the school.

At Camas Swale Medical Clinic, we look forward to partnering with you and your family as you work toward maintaining good health through the school year and beyond. Reach out today to make an appointment with Dr. Armitage.