Avoiding (Academic) Sick Days

Did you know that children on average get sick more often than adults? Since the immune system of a child is not fully developed, it is more susceptible to catching viruses when in close contact with another infected child. Seeing how most virus/infection transmissions occur at daycare or school parents can start feel hopeless when trying to keep their kids healthy. But avoiding the doctor’s office is as easy as instilling simple, consistent hygiene, sleeping and healthy eating patterns.

Some kids fall easily into these pattern early on. But for those who don’t, here are a few ideas to help get your kids eating right and in bed on time.

 “Why should I go to bed?”

Children between the ages of 5 and 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep per night. But with school and after school demands increasing, keeping kids on track after school can seem nearly impossible. Creating an afterschool chart of when homework, after school activities and dinner are to be completed will help keep kids on task and on schedule. Putting into place a “coming down time” 30 minutes before bed where TV, electronics and game playing ceases will help ease them into a restful evening. Enforcing a bedtime, even when on vacation, will help your child’s body rest and regenerate.

“Why do I have to eat that?”

Your child’s diet is incredibly important to keeping them from having sick days. Children naturally gravitate to “junk” food because it “tastes better”. But what your children may not know is that these foods can cause them to fill up on non-nutritional foods leaving little or no space for the foods they should be eating. Making sure that children are getting a balanced diet is pivotal to having a healthy child. Explaining to your child on a regular basis why nutrition will help to cement the habits of healthy eating.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that when a group of 324 elementary school students, aged 5 to 14, were given a lesson in hand disinfection theory there was a 66 percent decrease in the number of students that missed school for four or more days in one academic school year. And the number of students with zero sick days went up 20 percent compared to the previous school year. “Regular training in hand washing and hand disinfection” is the simplest, most cost-affective way to reduce the number of days children miss school says the study author, Inge Nandrup-Bus. 

If you find that the bathroom sink has become a battlefield in the Soap Wars saga, here are a few ideas to help keep your kids from coming in catching an illness:

“Washing your hands is fun!”

Kids think that washing their hands is a chore. Making the experience fun will help ease the burden kids feel while washing their hands. Create activities like singing or using colored soaps for hand washing. Some companies are now creating clear, organic bars of soap that have a small toy in the middle of the bar. Once the child has worn down the bar of soap, they’ll get the reward on the inside. 

“Watch how mommy does it.”

If you don’t wash your hands on a regular basis, your children won’t either. Making it a habit to wash your hands when the kids are around will help set the right example for them. 

“Watch the clock.”

The amount of time your child spends washing their hands is very important as well. Running their hands under water for 5 seconds does not count as “washing their hands” no matter how much they insist. An easy way to remember how much time their hands should be scrubbed is by singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

“Why is it important?”

Explain to your child why hygiene is important. Making sure that they understand the correlation between hygiene and illness will help them make sense of its importance. 

“When do you wash your hands?”

Although there is no specific number of times a day children should wash their hands, there are certain activities that should always be followed by a visit to the sink. These include coughing/sneezing, handling animals and trash, before and after coming in contact with a baby and before and after meals. If your worried that the kids won’t remember, leave them a little note in their lunchbox or book bag.

Creating the good hygiene, eating and sleeping habit early on will help you avoid sickdays as your kids get older. Enforcing these habits will not only help them in the short term but in the long term as well. Kids truly are mounds of clay that parents can form into healthy, happy kids.


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