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Back to School: Don't Let the Flu Catch You

Now that their kids are back in school, many parents are dreading the upcoming cold and flu season.

More and more moms and dads are asking the question, "How can I keep my kids healthy this school year and prevent them from getting colds and flus?"

The way to avoid colds and flus is actually very simple. It starts weeks or even months before the dreaded cold and flu season hits, but it's never too late to start building up your immune system.

There are two factors in the cold-causing process. The first is the exposure to the bacteria or virus. Generally speaking, there is nothing we can really do to prevent our kids from being exposed. In a school cafeteria, bathroom, or classroom, every child will be exposed to every bug, but only a small percentage usually get sick. Why is this? The reason has to do with the second factor in the cold-causing process: susceptibility. Keeping your child’s immunity strong enough so they do not succumb to always-there infectious bugs in the first place is the goal. Here are some tips to keep your children healthy and in school.

Moisturize the Sinuses

During the first weeks of school, exposure to cold-causing bugs is certainly higher. When early Fall hits, the days get shorter and the nights get colder, bringing with them dry, cool air. Heaters can dry the air even more, thereby causing the mucous membranes in the sinuses to dry out. Due to the dryness, mucous membranes produce large amounts of reactive mucus. Pollens can also act as irritants to the sinuses. When excess mucus is produced, it provides the perfect breeding ground for a viral or bacterial infection. Keep sinuses moist by using cool mist humidifiers at night during those early back-to-school days, and keep them running straight through the Winter. Sinuses generally begin to dry out in mid-August, so the end of summer is not too early to start using them.

Early To Bed

One of the most difficult tasks for moms and dads is to get their kids to bed early. Between school and extra-curricular activities, kids can get worn out. Pre-high school kids should be in bed by eight o’clock. For high school kids, lights should be out by ten. If a child is up past these hours regularly, they will wake up tired and soon their immunity will suffer.

Get Hydrated-Drink Water

Dehydration in children can cause stomachaches, bone loss, hormonal problems, obesity, fatigue, mood swings, poor focus ability, skin conditions and much more. An average person can lose two to three quarts of water a day through non-exertion. Active kids can lose twice that amount. For kids doing sports, a two percent loss in body weight due to perspiration creates a 25 percent loss of their athletic ability. A good rule of thumb for active kids is to drink one half of their ideal body weight in pounds in ounces of water per day to avoid dehydration.

Eat Well and Early

In the afternoon, the brain demands the lion’s share of available blood sugar. If all your kids had for lunch was a cookie or a snack (which happens quite often in school), then their blood sugar may crash in the afternoon. This is why kids are ravenous when they get home from school. If you can, leave a good, healthy meal out for them when they get home from school.

Veggies are critical for optimal elimination. The cellulose in vegetables literally attaches to toxins and escorts them out of the body. Avoid late heavy dinners. They are difficult to digest and a quick route to constipation. Moving your bowels once per day is considered normal. Parents need to help their kids track their elimination. If they know what is normal, they can be educated to tell their parents if their elimination is off. Regular bowel movements are key to optimal health and immunity.

Scrub Up

Regular hand washing is one of the single best ways to fight infection. Younger children should be instructed in the importance of proper hand washing before eating, after using the restroom, and as soon as they get home. For situations where hand washing is not possible, supply your kids with small bottles of hand sanitizing gel. Germs and viruses can hitch a ride back home from school, so regular cleaning of kitchen and bathroom counters will go a long way towards lowering the germ count.

If you do catch an upper respiratory infection, such as strep throat, bronchitis, cold, pneumonia, sinus infection, or flu, be sure to see your family doctor or primary care physician as soon as possible to seek treatment. Family doctors and primary care physicians are also great resources for prevention of these infections as well. Following these tips will help your children stay well throughout the upcoming cold and flu season and to make this their healthiest school year yet.

Dr. Paul Leavitt is a Board Certified Family Doctor and practices at Leavitt Family Medicine in Hendersonville, TN. At Leavitt Family Medicine, we are here for you, for all of your health care needs. We welcome your questions and comments and invite you to visit us at www.LeavittFamilyMedicine.com Let us know how we can help you today!

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