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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Four Back to School Tips to Keep Your Children Healthy This Year

Keep your children healthy this school year with these health-conscious tips- image by asdhelp

 The Washington State Department of Health published a report in 2004 outlining a program for controlling infectious diseases in public school classrooms. Other states have similar programs for their public school systems. The classroom, with an average of twenty- five children each, is an incubator for infectious diseases such as colds, influenza, measles, chicken pox, oral herpes, “strep throat,” mumps, whooping cough, head lice, meningitis, pin worms, and even sexually- transmitted diseases. Health-conscious parents who send their children to public schools may choose to boost their children’s immune systems before they head back to school. Below are four tips to help children stay healthy in the classroom.

Green smoothies pack a big health punch, and kids love them- image by Lamber Jules

Pack a healthy lunch and feed children nutritionally-dense meals at home

School lunches have been historically unhealthy. Because so many public school children are on free or reduced- price lunch programs, the cost of providing meals to them must be kept low. Fortunately, with the passing of the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act in 2012, school menus will be improving somewhat. A hot dog on a white hot dog bun with a squirt of ketchup will be replaced with whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce and green beans. Health- conscious parents would do well to send a healthy sack lunch with their children each school day.

In addition, start children off in the morning with a fruit- heavy green smoothie for breakfast instead of a bowl of cereal and milk. A blender makes a quart (one liter) of smoothies at a time, and takes at most five minutes to prepare and serve. All kinds of healthy superfoods and fats can be added to breakfast smoothies to help boost school children’s immune systems.

After school, provide a healthy snack to help children re-charge after a long day at school. If the children are involved with after school activities, these snacks can be slipped into the back pack on a daily basis or possibly be kept in the child’s locker at school. Brain-boosting snack foods include raw broccoli, raw nuts and seeds, avocado slices or guacamole, berries, or even a small square of dark chocolate.

For dinner, consider including wild caught salmon, curry dishes, and all manner of raw vegetable recipes to help children stay healthy during the school year.

Most school children do not drink much water at school- image by thatmustgo

Hydrate your children well after school

An alarming number of schools have adopted a policy of not allowing children to take very many bathroom breaks. Children are allowed to use the bathrooms before school, during lunch break, and after school, but not during classes. To manage this policy, many children simply do not drink any liquids at school other than the milk provided at lunch.

By the end of the school day, children are mentally exhausted and dehydrated. Make sure children get a full quart (liter) or more of pure water each day when they are at home. Keep soft drinks and bottled drinks out of the home so children are less tempted to reach for them after school.

Children must get enough sleep to perform well in school- image by BBC News

Enforce strict bedtime routines for elementary school children

The National Sleep Foundation says that elementary school children between the ages of five and ten need ten or eleven hours of sleep every night. When a child must get up at 6:30AM to get ready for school, this means going to bed every night at 8:30PM. Parents must guard their children’s sleep time and adjust their own schedules in order to make this happen. Children who do not get enough sleep perform poorly in school and are at a higher risk of getting sick.

With teens, it is almost impossible to enforce a bedtime. While teens need an average of nine hours of sleep each night, staying up late to work on school projects and cramming for exams is the norm in the U.S. High school students often compensate by sleeping for long hours on the weekends. Parents must learn to balance their teenagers’ need for sleep with the parents’ need for help with household chores.

Echinacea purpurea, the purple coneflower, is famous for its immune-boosting capabilities- image by North Creek Nurseries

Boost children’s immune systems with echinacea

The National Institutes of Health have published numerous clinical studies involving the use of echinacea as an immune system booster. Clinical evidence does exist to support the belief that echinacea does reduce the length and severity of the common cold.

Unfortunately, the clinical evidence is sketchy. Echinacea products come in a wide variety of strengths and effectiveness. There have been no long-term placebo-controlled, randomized studies published concerning the effectiveness of echinacea. However, there is enough empirical evidence and a few systematic reviews to suggest that echinacea does boost the immune system and it is safe for use with children.

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