Back-to-school means new clothes, new classroom supplies, new friends and a new schedule. It also means new germs.
To combat those new germs, physicians recommend some basic precautions – and not just for the kids, but for the entire family.
“I always say if it wasn’t for schools, I’d be out of a job,” said Dr. Paul Hartfield, chief of pediatrics at the Temecula Kaiser Permanente.
First, do as Mom and Dad have been saying: Eat your fruits and vegetables.
A healthy diet is important for many bodily functions and colorful fruits and vegetables in particular help fight the cold and flu bugs thanks to the phytochemicals responsible for providing the color.
The naturally occurring chemicals can help stimulate the human immune system, which then helps kill bacteria and viruses.
Next, get adequate sleep.
“Teenagers in particular tend to cheat on their sleep,” Hartfield said. “School is so busy with college prep classes and sports.”
Different people require different amounts of sleep, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends teenagers get approximately 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night. And younger children require much more sleep than adults. School age children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night according to the foundation, whereas adults may do well with 7 to 9 hours.
Regular exercise is also important for a healthy lifestyle, as is stress reduction.
Hartfield suggests probiotics as well.
“Eat yogurt or take a probiotic each day,” he said. “Bacterial cells outnumber human cells 10 to one, and they’re all in your gut. The proper ones can prevent cold and flu.”
This year’s flu vaccine will also be out this fall.
And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to wash your hands.
The little ones going into preschool or kindergarten should be taught how to properly wash hands.
“Make sure they have all their shots, get lots of sleep and eat a healthy diet,” Hartfield said. “And wash those hands again as soon as they get home each day. They do pick up a lot at school.”
Jennifer Dean is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.