Sleep, Diet & Hygiene Are Important To Your Child’s Health

It might start with a scratchy throat or a runny nose. It’s that moment when you know your child is sick again and you will be missing work and possibly becoming ill yourself. Most school-age children contract six to 10 cold viruses per year, and influenza infection rates among school children and their caretakers average 20 to 30 percent most years. Keeping your children well seems like an uphill battle at times, but there are steps you can take to limit their exposure to germs and strengthen their immune systems.photo of child sleeping in bed

First, examine your child’s sleep patterns. Studies show that most children and teens do not get enough sleep. School-age children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep every night; teens should be sleeping 8.5 to 9.5 hours regularly. Lack of sleep has been linked to lowered immune response. Sleep is also required to release chemicals and hormones that aid in cell repair. Children’s lives are busy, and homework, after-school activities, and screen time all contribute to this sleep deficit. Help your children learn good time-management skills and place importance on sleep as a vector to good health.

High sugar intake will depress your child’s immune system. White blood cell function decreases for four to six hours after consuming high-sugar foods. Offer fruit for dessert and vegetables as snacks. Make sweets an occasional treat and don’t let holidays become synonymous with excess sugar. If your child becomes ill, immediately cut sugary foods out of their diet to help them recover faster.

Vitamin D Is Important

Vitamin D is used by every cell in the human body in physiological processes, but most people are chronically deficient. It is believed that flu season coincides with fall and winter because there is less sunlight, and vitamin D levels naturally fall. As days grow shorter and less time is spent outside, exposure to the sun is diminished, along with the opportunity to naturally manufacture vitamin D. Supplements, which should be available to the whole family during the cold season, are readily available in most supermarkets and drug stores. You can also serve foods that are rich in vitamin D, such as salmon, mushrooms, nuts and dairy products.

The easiest way to stop germs from infecting your children is to avoid them altogether. Emphasize hand-washing at home and make sure your children understand how germs are spread from surface to surface. Teach your children how and when to wash their hands: with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds, and then dried thoroughly, after using the bathroom and before eating. Keep alcohol-based sanitizing gels on hand for times when hand-washing is not possible.

Flu Shots For Everyone

Consider flu shots for the whole family. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people over the age of 6 months get a yearly flu shot. School absences double during flu season, which leads to missed work days for parents as well. A regular flu shot may be the easiest way to avoid an illness that is at best miserable and at worst potentially life-threatening. Most insurance plans cover flu vaccines. You can also keep an eye out for free or reduced-price flu shots through schools and county health departments. Try to get a shot as soon as you can for the longest window of protection. Flu shots are available until May, but supplies may grow short.

Small changes in habit can help your family resist colds and flu viruses. Adequate sleep and diet, proper hygiene and preventive vaccines are all integral parts of an intelligent approach to avoiding illness. By incorporating these strategies, you can keep your family well all year long.