Written by SMH Digital Content Editor Ann Key
The 2019-2020 school year is in full swing! While you’re settling back into the routine, don’t forget to talk with your kids about how to stay healthy, stay safe, stay focused and stay in the game this school year.
Anywhere there are lots of kids, there will be lots of germs — especially schools.
Germs like to spread on our hands, so teaching children proper hand hygiene can help them avoid nasty illnesses like the flu, stomach bug and common cold — and can help keep those germs out of your home.
When to wash hands: Any time is a good time to wash your hands, but it's a must for students upon arrival to school and as soon as they get home after school; before eating; after gym class, recess and time on the playground; after coughing or sneezing, blowing the nose and using the restroom.
How to wash hands: Wet hands; add soap; rub hands together for 20 seconds, scrubbing palms, fingertips, between fingers and backs of hands; rinse until all bubbles are gone; dry hands using paper towel; and use paper towel to turn off faucet. Tip: Teach your student to sing “Happy Birthday to You” twice while scrubbing hands to ensure they hit the 20-second mark.
Also, remind children to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when they handwashing isn’t an option.
For a hand hygiene how-to video, check out this Healthe-Matters vlog, and click here for more tips on flu prevention.
Getting There & Back: Whether your child has been riding a school bus for years or will be walking to school for the very first time, it’s important to review ways he/she can get to and from school safely. SMH Trauma Coordinator Leeann Putney offers great tips and reminders for student walkers, bus-riders, cyclists and drivers in this post; give it a read, and read it to your student.
Put the Device Down!: This is a good reminder for all of us. Consider making a rule for everyone in your family that devices stay stashed during commutes until the destination is reached (bus stop, school, work, etc.). Listening to music, talking on the phone and texting can be dangerous distractions — especially for teens who head to school during the dark wee hours of morning — whether you are walking, biking and of course, driving.
The Dangers of Vaping: Vaping, or the use of e-cigarettes, among tweens and teens has become an increasing concern for parents, educators and the healthcare community. Get the facts on vaping, its potential dangers and teen use of the Juul device in this recorded Ask An Expert Q&A video with Sarasota Memorial Director of Thoracic Surgical Oncology Paul Chomiak, MD.
Stay in the Game
Have a student athlete in your family? Make time to take him/her for a pre-season sports physical. These assessments evaluate whether the child's body can handle the physical demands of a sport. If a potential problem is identified, it can be addressed early, so the student can go on to train and compete safely. Sports physicals, required for public school students to participate in school athletics, can be handled quickly and affordably at an urgent care center. Click here to learn more.
Stay Fueled & Focused
Send students off to school ready to learn, and help them stay fueled up and focused all day long.
Kickstart your student’s day with a protein-rich breakfast like hard-boiled eggs, mini “quiches,” egg sandwich or even toast with nut butter. Skip the sugar-laden cereals and breakfast bars, which will only set them up for a mid-morning brain crash.
Keep easy to make or grab-and-go breakfast and snack options on hand, especially if you have a teen. When buying pre-made or processed foods, be sure to check the nutrition label before buying; some products look deceptively healthy but are loaded with sugar. (Visit the US Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate website for further guidance.)
Teach your student how to stay hydrated the healthy way; this is especially important during summer months and sports practices or games. Use these tips:
- Make drinking water more fun: Let your student choose his/her own fun water bottle and personalize it. Keep it interesting by flavoring the water with mix-ins sweetened with Stevia and colored with fruit/vegetable-based colorings.
- Discourage sugary sodas and sports drinks, as well as caffeinated energy drinks.
- Encourage them to eat water-rich foods, including fruits like watermelon and grapefruit; vegetables like crisp lettuces, cucumber, zucchini and broccoli; dairy-based foods like yogurt; and soups.
Students also need quality sleep and regular exercise to keep their focus and to stay healthy.
- Help children stick to a consistent sleep routine, and insist that they power down TVs and personal electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Studies have shown that using a digital device at bedtime greatly diminishes sleep quality.
- Before kids dive into homework (or screen time) after school, encourage them to get some exercise and a healthy snack. Suggest 30 minutes of walking, stretching, yoga, swimming or cycling. Long hours at a desk with little physical activity can take a toll on health, even in young people.
For afterschool snacks, offer something that can re-fuel young brains and bodies. Discourage unhealthy vending machine snacks. Almonds and other nuts are a good snack choice, as are hummus + pita slices or hummus + veggies. Click here for healthy snack ideas and recipes from SMH Outpatient Dietitian Emily Harren.
Wishing you all a safe and happy school year!
Sarasota Memorial digital content specialist Ann Key manages the healthcare system's Healthe-Matters blog and digital newsletter, as well as its other social media and wellness content channels. Have a health question or a wellness topic you'd like a local expert to weigh in on, let us know: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.