Back-to-School: On keeping your kids healthy and safe all year long

iStock_000021148452XSmallSo the kids are officially back-to-school. Are yours back too? Or are you still squeezing in the last bits of summer before being thrust into the morning rush that is packing lunches, signing papers, making breakfast, and spraying down unruly bedheads?

I both love and loathe this time of year. I love that my kids are excited to see their friends, make new ones, meet their teachers, and have a genuine enthusiasm to learn new things. But…I loathe that the passage of time is staring me squarely in the face, declaring…yes, your kids are growing up and moving on. Get used to it.

And…well, quite frankly I loathe the plethora of germs that inevitably make their way into our home. Fall and wintertime viruses will do that. Put 20-30  kids in close proximity for most of the day, and those darns bugs spread like wildfire.

So, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and put your best defenses up. Keep your kids healthy and safe this school year.

Staying Well

Give those immune systems a boost:

  • You’ve probably heard it all before but it’s worth repeating because it’s true…a good night’s sleep is one of the ultimate infection fighters. School aged children need 10-11 hours per night, and teens should aim for 9. Reign in those bedtimes now and make it a regular, relaxing, and non-negotiable end to their busy days.
  • Eat well: pack in as many fruits and vegetables into their daily diet as you can. Aim for 5 servings per day but don’t stress about it. Serve one up with each meal and snack; and keep the water flowing.
  • Stay active with your kids: daily exercise is good for the whole family. Not only is it a great mood lifter, it’s a fantastic immune booster.

Immunizations:

  • Make sure your kids are up to date on all their immunizations. While there aren’t vaccines against the many viruses that cause the common cold, there is a seasonal flu vaccine in addition to other vaccines that protect against Whooping Cough and Chickenpox that can certainly sideline you and your kids for several days.
  • Check in with your child’s pediatrician to make sure your child has all his/her recommended vaccines.

Be a defensive player:

  • Hand washing: encourage and teach your children to wash their hands before eating, after playing outside, and after using the bathroom. Stash handy antibacterial wipes and/or gels in your purse/bag/car for times when hand washing isn’t available. And? I always hand my kids a wipe the minute they hop into the car after school.
  • Staying home: if your child has a fever, is vomiting, has diarrhea, or has a questionable/weeping rash; you should really keep them home. Not only will this expedite his/her recovery, you just may save another child from becoming infected.
  • Tricks of the trade: teach your kids to sneeze into the crook of their elbows, not to share drinking/eating utensils with friends, and to save the kisses for mommy and daddy.

Medicines: Out with the old, in with the new

Toss expired products

  • Clean sweep: Go through your medicine cabinets now and get rid of those that have expired or that are no longer appropriate for your family.
  • Stock up: with fall allergies and colds on the horizon, now is the time to stock up on medicines that you know help your child through seasonal allergies and/or a viral cold. Keeping your medicine cabinet stocked with medicines that are specifically for your child in the midst of a fever/cold/allergies will ensure that you’ll NEVER be tempted to give an adult medicine to your child. Especially in the middle of the night, when it always seems the worst…and you’re desperate.

Safety First

Up and away

  • Now is the time to check that all your household medications/vitamins are stored high and out of reach. Use safety latches if you have a climber and never underestimate the power of talking to your children (even very young ones) about the danger of taking medicine without talking to you first and/or when they don’t need it.
  • The right dose, every time: it can be tempting to use a kitchen spoon or nearby measuring device when it’s the middle of the night or you can’t find the dosing syringe that came with your child’s medicine…but don’t do it! This is how accidents happen. Always use the dosing device that came with your child’s medication and if ever you are unsure about the dose, contact your healthcare provider for help.
  • Know when to hold ’em: sometimes the best medicine is simply none at all. This is certainly the case for children less than 4 years old who are in the midst of a cold. OTC cough and cold medicines are just not safe or effective for them. Instead, offer plenty of fluids, a cool mist humidifier, a teaspoon (or two) of honey before bed (for kids older than age 1) to relieve nighttime coughing, and of course…plenty of TLC.
  • Get the facts: we all need a little relief now and then when fighting allergies and/or a cold (children included); just be sure you know these important safety DOs and DONTs.

So, here we are, another school year has begun. My youngest has started kindergarten and I have a third grader on the threshold of tween-hood (or so it seems). Hope these tips help keep you and your kids safe and healthy all year long. Now excuse me while I go cry in my coffee…

Disclosure:  I receive compensation for my participation in the CHPA educational foundation’s OTC Safety Ambassador program.  However, the content and opinions in  this post are my own.

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