Back to school, back to germs! During the school year, your child's immune system is put to the test. In addition to stocking up on school supplies and finding a cool new backpack, it's important to prepare your child physically for some of the most common challenges of a new school year. The following tips will help keep support your child's immunity throughout the year.
Wash Hands Often
Young kids are notorious for spreading germs that cause illness. Remind your child that hand washing is the simplest and most effective way to avoid catching or spreading germs. Kids should wash their hands before eating and after using the bathroom, blowing their nose, playing outside, and arriving home from school. Simple soap and water are best, and they should be sure to get the backs of their hands and between the fingers. The Mayo Clinic suggests soaping up for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
Fruits and Veggies -- and Don't Skip Breakfast!
A healthy diet is key for healthy immunity. Carrots, beans, broccoli, citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens contain immune-boosting phytonutrients, which help increase the body's production of infection-fighting white blood cells. Kids should eat at least five servings of fruits and veggies every day, so be sure to stock your child's lunch box with lots of produce and offer vegetables at dinnertime too.
No matter how groggy your child may be in the morning, skipping breakfast should not be an option! Kids who don't eat breakfast tend to be tired, restless, and irritable. The body needs to refuel after fasting for 8 to 12 hours during sleep. A small meal in the morning can help prevent a midmorning energy slump. To boost your child's attention span, concentration, and memory through the day, choose foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein and low in added sugar.
If your child doesn't already take a daily multivitamin, start today -- even healthy, well-balanced diets are lacking in some of the nutrients kids need most to support learning, behavior, and immunity. Look for a multivitamin formula specially formulated for children. A daily omega-3 supplement is also a great choice. In addition to supporting heart health, the omega-3s found in marine oil may also benefit the immune system. An added bonus? Studies show that omega-3s also support a healthy mood, behavior, and learning in kids.
Sleep Is Essential
Adequate sleep is also necessary for a healthy immune system. Studies show that sleep deprivation makes kids and adults alike more susceptible to illness. Preschoolers need about 11 to 12 hours of sleep a day, while school-aged kids need at least 10 hours and teens need 9 to 10 hours daily. At least a couple weeks before school starts, ease kids back into a sleep routine by setting bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night. Cut back on screen time at night (including watching television) and encourage quiet activities like reading before bed.
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