It's time for another school year! While this can be an exciting time for kids to make new friends and learn new things, it can also be a time when it's easy to catch a cold or the flu. When you put a bunch of kids in a room together for a few hours, it's pretty much guaranteed that all kinds of germs will be spread. Luckily, there are quite a few things you can do to strengthen your kids' immune systems. Below are 5 habits that you can start implementing into your family's daily routines that will lead to healthier and happier kids this school year.
1. The first, and most obvious, is good hygiene. Make sure even young kids know how to properly wash their hands (warm water and soap), and teach them to do it after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coming in from outside. In addition, tell them to always keep their fingers away from their noses and mouths.
2. Make sure your kids get enough sleep. Sleep is the body's time to rejuvenate and repair itself, a dedicated time for the immune system to do its work. Elementary kids should be getting 10-11 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers should be getting 9-10 hours (which becomes difficult due to early school start times and busy schedules, so do the best you can).
3. Make healthy breakfasts and lunches. These two meals not only serve as fuel for the day, they provide nutrition to feed the immune system. If your kids aren't getting enough protein, vitamins, and minerals in their breakfasts and lunches, their bodies won't have the fuel necessary to fight off the bacteria and viruses they come into contact with. Studies also show that eating sugar suppresses the immune response for up to 5 hours by reducing the amount of white blood cells in the body. A bowl of sugary cereal in the morning does much more harm than good!
4. Get some exercise! This is an often-overlooked way to strengthen the immune system. It also improves mood and shakes off stress, and high levels of stress can compromise a child's growing brain. Your kids spend the majority of the school day sitting down, so it's important to make sure they get some exercise after school. Try going for walks or bike rides, play on a local playground, or when it gets snowy outside, have a snowball fight!
5. Teach your kids to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water every day is absolutely necessary for a healthy immune system. Proper hydration also fights against headaches, poor concentration, and cracked lips, to name a few. Pack a water bottle for your child when they go to school or leave the house, and remind them often of how important it is to drink water.
If you make these habits a part of your kids' daily lives, they will get sick less often, and when they do get sick it will be much less severe. Remember to lead by example; kids are much more likely to stay hydrated, exercise, etc. if they see you doing the same. Here's to a great, healthy, successful school year!