Back to School: What I Tell My Own Kids About Staying Healthy

Theresa Kuhn, R.N., B.S.N., has a tried-and-true lesson plan for keeping school-age children healthy. As both a mom and Kohl’s School Nurse Liaison Consultant for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, she offers these insights for parents.

In preschool and kindergarten, children are always part of a larger group-and they take part in all the group’s germs. In fact, nearly 22 million school days are lost every year due to the common cold alone. But instead of simply expecting your kids to get sick, there are several lessons you can teach to help them avoid germs and build their immunities.

Stay Healthy at School
 Here’s what I tell kids (including my own daughter) about keeping their bodies healthy:

  • Wash your hands. Regular hand-washing is the number one way to stay healthy.
  • Cough into your elbow, not your hand. That way you won’t spread germs to everything you touch.
  • Respect each other’s space. Then if someone else coughs, you won’t be close enough to catch his germs.
  • Play hard at recess or in gym. Exercise gives your body an immunity-building workout.

Healthy Habits Start at Home
 To give kids a healthy start before they even walk out the door, here are my top recommendations for parents:

  • Enforce good hand hygiene. The importance of hand-washing can’t be overstated. I’m always reminding my daughter about germs on doorknobs, keyboards, shopping carts, etc. Ask your kids to wash their hands at home, especially after they’ve been outside.
  • Teach good nutrition. Encourage children to choose fruits and vegetables over fatty and high-sugar foods. Coach them on how to make wise choices whenever they’re given options for school lunches-or better yet, pack a healthy lunch for them.
  • Keep current on immunizations. If you don’t, your kids run the risk of catching “something” and missing school.

As parents, it’s our job to keep our kids as healthy as possible. And a healthy child spends more time in the classroom. Research shows that optimal learning doesn’t just come from books but also from being around our peers and teachers. It’s all tied together-a healthy child is a better-educated child!