Back to school health: the tips you need to know to keep children healthy

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  • It's that time of the year again: the long summer holidays are over and the kids are back into the classroom (hurrah!).

    There’s a lot for parents to think about at this time of year, from making new friends at the school gates, to the healthiest packed lunches to keep the little ones happy.

    But going back to school might also come with a dose of the sniffles or other health problems, which can be caused by a a few different factors. Not only are children heading back into a classroom where viruses could be doing the rounds, but they’re also adjusting to their term time routine again, which could make them tired and more vulnerable to getting ill.

    So, what can you do to make sure your little ones stay healthy during the back to school period? We have a few tips.

    Boosting their immune system

    Having a good immune system will help protect your children from most common illnesses, like the common cold. The key to strengthening it is first and foremost a healthy and varied diet, with plenty of vegetables and fruit.

    But, we know it’s a struggle if your child is a fussy eater, so a multivitamin could be a good way of ensuring they’re getting the goodness that they need if they’re not big fans of broccoli. And, while we’re on the subject, don’t forget to take care of your immune system too.

    Make sure they get enough sleep

    We all know that children who don’t get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and learning, but it could also have an impact on their health, as lack of sleep may weaken their immune system.

    To make sure your little one gets enough shut eye time, set a consistent bedtime for them and stick with it every night. It’s also a good idea to develop a pre-bed routine like having a bath or a shower and a goodnight story.

    You might also want to impose a time when they have to turn off their electronic devices, like phones and tablets, and maybe swap them for a book. The right bedtime is not only good for the children, but it can also help improve parents’ wellbeing as well.

    Look out for their backs

    According to the British Chiroprcatic Association, around a third of parents reported their child has suffered from back or neck pain, which could be due to overloaded schoolbags.

    As well as making sure they have an adequate backpack for school that will minimise the strain on their backs and distribute weight equally on both shoulders, you should also make sure your child is not carrying unnecessary items for the day’s activities, like books for subjects they won’t be having that day.

    Managing asthma

    According to Asthma UK, there’s a sharp rise in children hospitalised with their asthma in September due to a number of reasons.

    The charity say: ‘Our most recent statistics show that across the UK, children aged 5-19 were 1.7 times more likely to be admitted to hospital in September than in August. As well as coming into contact with more colds and flu in the autumn term, getting out of a routine with your child’s preventer medicines over the summer can increase their risk. It’s important that your child continues to take their regular asthma medicines over the summer so that they stay protected for when school starts up again.’

    As well as making sure your child is on top of their asthma routine, you might also want to pack a spare inhaler – ensuring it’s not empty or out of date – in their school bag and take for a routine asthma check up.

    Test their eye sight

    Being short-sighted can prevent children from reading a whiteboard properly, while being long-sighted could cause problems with reading, writing and concentration. Eye strain could cause headaches, as well as potential learning difficulties, so this time of year could be a good opportunity to take advantage of the NHS’ free eye test for children under 16.

    Don’t forget vitamin D

    New vitamin D advice from Public Health England advises people to consider taking a supplement – especially during the autumn and winter months, from October until the end of March, as the sun isn’t strong enough in the UK to produce vitamin D.

    Children aged one to four years should have a daily 10mcg vitamin D supplement all year round, while children older than four might only need it half of the year.

    Help manage their stress levels

    Heading back to school – especially if they’re starting at a new one – can be very overwhelming, which could make children anxious and stressed. To help kids manage their stress levels, make sure they are as prepared as they can be, so they aren’t rushing around and panicking. Setting aside enough time to do their homework, get ready in the morning, and of course a good night’s sleep will all help.

    A couple of years ago, Californian teacher Brett Philips won praise from students and parents around the world after sharing a list of  101 ways to deal with stress with his class to stop them getting stressed at school. His practical advice and fun ideas, varied from ‘getting up 15 minutes earlier’ to ‘be prepared for rain’ and have ‘a bubble bath’.

    Do you have any other tips to keep children healthy during their return to school? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know your thoughts!

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