From the school bus to the classroom to the soccer field, your kids encounter more germs than you can imagine on a daily basis. It’s no wonder that keeping them healthy during the school year can feel like an impossible task! Luckily, these time-tested tips and tricks can help you keep your kids in tip-top form so they can continue to learn, grow, and play this year—and feel their best while doing it!
Number 1: Wash, Wash, Wash Their Hands!
You’d think our number one tip would go without saying, but the truth is, many kids aren’t doing a sufficient job of washing their hands to actually make an impact on their health. And since kids are walking, talking, adorable little germ carriers, proper hand washing is their first line of defense against contracting and spreading illness. Good hand washing helps prevent everything from the common cold and infectious diarrhea to meningitis and hepatitis A. So teach your kids the right way to lather up and you can avoid a multitude of illnesses in your household!
First, always use warm water. (Cold water will do in a pinch if warm isn’t accessible, but always shoot for warm for maximum benefits.) Make sure to use soap that doesn’t contain the harmful ingredient triclosan, then scrub and lather up for at least 20 seconds. Have your kids sing a few choruses of Happy Birthday or Row, Row, Row Your Boat to make sure they’re washing long enough. And make sure to teach them how to wash the fronts and backs of their hands, plus in between their fingers. Germs are hiding everywhere!
Number 2: Promote Healthy Sleep Habits
Did you know sleep is just as important as diet and exercise when it comes to supporting optimal health? While a person sleeps, the immune system releases cytokines—proteins that help the body fight off infection and illness. Kids who get adequate sleep also experience fewer attention problems and learning issues, and even have a lower chance of becoming overweight or developing diabetes later in life.
It’s important to set up a bedtime pattern that can help your kids drift off to dreamland around the same time each night. For example, a routine with young children might include taking a bath, brushing teeth, and reading a story. Consistency is key with preschool and elementary aged kids—when they know what is expected of them, they are more cooperative which makes bedtime more peaceful for everyone. While it’s unlikely that teenagers still want to be tucked into bed each night, it’s just as crucial to their immune systems to get an adequate amount of shut-eye for better overall health. Encourage them to put down tech devices at least an hour before bedtime to let their brains know it’s time to prep for sleep mode.
If you have a child who has difficulty winding down for bedtime, there is a unique extract of echinacea that is proven to be safe and effective for children four years old and above. While you might associate echinacea with immune health, this specific extract, called Echinacea angustifolia, is different. Clinical research has proven its amazing ability to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. While Echinacea angustifolia doesn’t actually induce sleep, it has a calming, relaxing effect on the brain that can help anyone from young children to the elderly relieve tension and fall asleep more easily.
Number 3: Make Healthy Meals a Priority
For many families, getting out the door in the morning is a mad rush, and adding one more thing, like preparing a nutritious breakfast, seems nearly impossible. But the truth is that when it comes to overall wellness, healthy meals are extremely important to keep the immune system in fighting form.
For mornings when you need something quick, try one of these healthy grab-and-go options. They’re chock full of nutrients and will give your family members the fuel they need for a healthy, productive day:
Super-Charged Smoothies A good blender can be a busy parent’s best friend. Start with some antioxidant-packed berries and greens and throw in some organic whole-milk yogurt for a a healthy dose of protein and probiotics.
Hard Boiled Breakfast Loaded with choline plus other vitamins and minerals, eggs are extremely beneficial to your health! You might not have time to fry one up for a breakfast sandwich, but hardboiled eggs are just as delicious and easy to eat anywhere, anytime!
Creative Combo We tend to think a healthy meal takes time to prepare, but for days when there just isn’t a minute to spare, grab an apple, string cheese, and a handful of nuts for a well-rounded meal. This high-fiber, protein-packed mix will fill your kids up and give them sustained energy until lunchtime!
Number 4: Stock Your Kitchen with Natural Immune Boosters
Did you know that the common cold is the leading cause of doctor visits in the United States and results in 189 million lost school days each year? Then there’s influenza viruses—yuck—which account for 20-25 million doctor visits annually. It’s stats like these that make it a great idea to call in some immune-system reinforcement during the school year!
As a parent, it can be tough to know which natural products are safe for your kids to take. We’ve done the research for you, so you can rest assured that these herbs are safe and effective for the kids in your life:
Echinacea Echinacea purpurea (not to be confused with the echinacea angustifolia mentioned previously for stress and anxiety) is well-known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties, especially when taken at the early onset of cold and flu symptoms. Time after time, studies find that this herb reduces the length and severity of colds, and helps people bounce back from illness more quickly. A four-month clinical trial showed that echinacea was able to reduce the total number of cold episodes in participants, and also cut the cumulative total of days of illness.
Andrographis This herb can help prevent the common cold and reduce the intensity of symptoms like sore throat and runny nose. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, andrographis was able to relieve the severity of symptoms, including fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, and sleeplessness, in just two days. By the fourth day, participants saw a decrease in all symptoms, which also included headache, earache, phlegm production, and coughing spells.
Pelargonium Pelargonium has antibacterial, antiviral, and expectorant properties, which attack acute infections at their roots while also strengthening the immune system. It can also help to prevent reinfection. In Germany, pelargonium is an over-the-counter prescription because of its effectiveness against sinus, throat, and respiratory tract infections. Children as young as six years old, especially those who have not responded well to repeated treatment with antibiotics, have seen phenomenal results with pelargonium.
Number 5: Let Them Get Sick
While it’s not normal for kids to constantly have runny noses, sore throats, or other chronic symptoms, it is perfectly healthy for them to get sick from time to time. In fact, you want your child to catch a bug or two over the course of the school year because it enables them to build a stronger immune system and future resistance. The good news is that this tip doesn’t require a whole lot of work on your part. Despite your best efforts to keep them healthy, your kids will get sick once in a while.
When a virus leaves your child glassy-eyed and feverish, resist your first instinct to reach for the Tylenol. A fever is a natural response to inflammation in the body and actually helps your little one fight off the illness more effectively. By suppressing a fever with over-the-counter medication, you’re not allowing the body to do what it needs to. Of course, if you have a child who is in pain and flat-out miserable from head-to-toe, use your discretion and make the call you feel is right.
What can you do to increase comfort and speed up recovery time? Increase fluids to help flush toxins from the body and eliminate inflammatory foods like dairy and wheat from their diet. Encourage your kids to snack on berries and sour fruits, which increase immune activity because of their high content of bioflavonoids and vitamin C. And always remember the best thing you can do for your kids when they’re sick: let them rest!
Get Your Kids to Take Their Vitamins
Including a multivitamin in your family’s daily regimen can ensure everyone is getting a healthy dose of vital nutrients, but convincing your kids to actually take them can be a challenge. Try these helpful hints to make things easier on everyone:
Choose Wisely. If your child can’t swallow supplements, there are a variety of other easier options to offer them. Vitamins come in all shapes and sizes including gummies, character shapes, and even lollipops. But remember that while choosing something cute or tasty might win you points with your kids, you want to make sure their vitamins aren’t laced with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Those ingredients could counteract anything good you’re hoping natural supplements will do!
Covert Operation. Kid-friendly foods can make great “hiding” places for supplements. Try mixing powders, liquids, and even some crushable tablets into peanut butter, applesauce, yogurt, smoothies, or cottage cheese.
The Mary Poppins Makeover. Obviously Mary Poppins wasn’t overly concerned with the detrimental effects of sugar on children, but she was onto something with a trick for helping “the medicine go down.” Skip Mary’s spoonful of sugar and try applesauce instead. Or allow your kids to choose their favorite healthy “chaser” to make swallowing supplements easier.
Practice What You Preach. Setting a good example is what parenting is all about. Take your vitamins daily, in front of your children. When they’re ready to follow your lead with swallowing tablets, start them out small so they don’t get overwhelmed. Make it an important part of your daily routine and they’re sure to eventually do the same.