To many parents of small children, back-to-school is synonymous with a household breakout of Cootiepalooza. In case you’re not familiar with this term, Cootiepalooza is when small children enter the general small-children population and infect one another with germs through touching, sneezing or coughing at one another.
It’s generally a pretty innocuous event; there’s a contained outbreak of lice, pinkeye, the common cold virus or stomach flu. Occasionally, however, a particularly nasty strain is brought home that wipes out the entire family for a week. Worse still, a childhood disease that we all thought was long dead makes a revival, such as the whooping cough outbreak of 2011.
But fear not, with a little due diligence and common hygienic precautions, you can keep yourself and your little ones from falling victim to back to school illnesses.
1. Sleep. It does the body good.
Elementary school-aged children need about 10-11 hours a night of sleep and preschoolers need even more. I like my children to get between 11-12 hours of sleep a night. We try to get them to bed every night by 7 pm because they have to get up at 6:30. Tire them out. They need their sleep in order to stay healthy. Overtired bodies are vulnerable to sickness.
2. Fuel up Right
For breakfast, focus on providing a protein-filled meal that will help them last the morning and give them the energy they need. If you can, eat breakfast with your kids. Little eyes see everything, and if you skip breakfast, they might get the idea it’s okay for them to do the same.
For lunch, while the bento boxes on Pinterest may be cute, make sure your kids will eat what you give them. If it’s entertaining and nutritious, even better. Cut veggies are great for easy snacking. Low-cal dips can make them even more appetizing. Limit the lunch options to healthy ones and then whatever they eat will be good for them.
3. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene.
Make sure your little one remembers to always practice good hygiene after using the lavatory, playing outside or sneezing and before they eat. This means washing their hands in warm water using soap. Tell them to sing “Happy Birthday” twice all the way through in order to get hands completely clean.
I also send my little girls to school with personal hand sanitizers in fun flavors. They love choosing them and are enthusiastic to use them. I tell them to use them before eating a snack and after using a community classroom item; mouse, pencil, chalkboard, etc.
It’s also great to send your little one with a small personal package of Kleenex to keep in their desk and let them know to use the Kleenex to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing and then to immediately dispose of the used Kleenex into the wastebasket.
Make sure your little ones know not to share water bottles, food or personal items such as Chapstick and make up. If it goes anywhere near your mouth, don’t share it.
4. Work it girl (or boy)!
Kids need at least 30 minutes of regular, nonstop exercise every single day. Yet, physical education in our district is only held once a week. Not to mention, that with a classroom of children participating, there is often not a lot of physical exertion actually happening. Family walks and bike rides or afternoons at the park playing will benefit the whole family.
How do you keep your little ones from coming home from school sick?