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Heading Back To School: Keeping Your Kids Healthy

With many parents juggling WFH, childcare and home schooling, it’s fair to say that the lockdown had been intense at times for families with babies and young children! However, it’s also been a time to reconnect with our family, be more creative about play and learning and enjoy simple forms of exercise together such as family walks and bike rides, where possible.

With educational and childcare settings such as nurseries and primary schools due to open their doors again, parents may well be sighing a breath of relief and looking forward to getting some much-needed structure back to their lives. Parents will also have concerns about how children will settle back into their old routines, and naturally, about the effect socialising with others might have on their health. While coronavirus will be top of the list of worries, this new Back to School time will also see a resurgence of other common conditions and infectious diseases such as colds, tummy bugs and chickenpox.

Here GP and mum to two toddlers and a newborn ,Dr Laura Lenihan @drlauragp gives you her top tips on how to keep your kids as healthy and happy as possible when they do return to nursery or school:

  1. Hands up for hygiene: continuing to hammer home the hand washing message to your child will be vital! Schools can be a common breeding ground for germs and bugs and washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect against illnesses such as food poisoning and flu. Make it fun by getting them to sing “Happy Birthday” twice (around 20 seconds) whilst rubbing their hands under running water with a mild soap. It’s instinctive for young children to be curious about touch, but try to explain gently without scaring them, that they need to try not to touch their own or their classmates faces – and to wash their hands regularly throughout the day and when they get home.
  2. School fuel: making sure your child eats balanced, healthy meals and snacks will help keep their immunity in check. The occasional treat is fine, but try to keep sugary snacks or processed foods to a minimum. Experiment with brightly coloured snacks such as slices of peppers, oranges, avocadoes, strawberries, blueberries, carrots and apples.  Kids love the colours and fruit and veg is a great source of vitamins A & C. Protein also plays a role in the immune system, so try to incorporate sources such as chicken, fish, eggs, beans and chickpeas. Also, when school’s reopen, pack a water bottle for your child so they can sip it throughout the day and stay hydrated.
  3. Sleep on it: for many families, the lockdown has played havoc with sleep routines.  Don’t be hard on yourself if bedtime rules have gone out of the window recently, but do try to get your kids back into a good routine so they’re well rested and ready for the day ahead. There’s no hard and fast rules but as a general guide, toddlers need around 12 hours of sleep a night; children aged three to six – 10-12 hour. ; Sticking to some bedtime rituals can really help: try following some simple “wind down” techniques before bed each night e.g. a warm bath and then story time with their favourite story or poem.
  4. Spot on: there’s no doubt that there will be a rise in infectious diseases such as chickenpox when school’s return. Chickenpox is a common, but extremely contagious airborne virus which spreads through the air by coughing or sneezing or by touching an infected person. Chickenpox should be easy to “spot”! Look out for small, roundish red patches which develop into blisters. The rash usually starts from the torso and spreads. The risk of infection lasts until all the blisters have scabbed over. In addition to the obvious blisters, typical symptoms are fever, headache and pain in the limbs and very severe itching. Thankfully chickenpox is easy to treat. Try PoxClin CoolMousse – it promotes the skin’s natural healing process and reduces the risk of skin infection and scarring. If you child does have chickenpox, you’ll probably be advised to keep them off school or nursery. Usually it takes seven to 10 days until all of the blisters have crusted over and they’re no longer contagious. So, you might be back to square one again with ‘quarantine’, but you’re a pro now –  you’ve got this!
  5. Ask for help if you need it: it’s natural for parents of young children to feel anxious about their child’s health during these difficult times. We’re all adapting to a new normal. While social distancing is changing the way that we “see” patients, don’t forget that healthcare professionals are still there for you. If you have any concerns at all about your child’s health, check with a pharmacist or book an online or ‘phone appointment with your GP
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