As a retail pharmacist, there is a trend that becomes obvious about 2 weeks after a new school year begins, kids are sick. The most common “back to school” related illness are strep, colds, and the stomach flu. I don’t know what kind of statistics there are to back this observation up, but I would say that antibiotic prescriptions go up 10 fold within the first 2 weeks of a new school year, and that doesn’t count the OTC cold medications and nausea treatments that get sold at that time of year. Suffice it say, the likelihood of your kid coming home sick the before the end of September is approximately super-high.
So, you can’t just keep your kid out of school until October, then what can you do to keep your kids healthy and in school? The number one thing you can do (and it’s so obvious I’m not even going to give it a bullet point) is to get your kids to wash your hands with soap and water regularly. This is definitely easier said than done, especially with little kids, but it is important to start the habit early. Ok, so what other things can be done to avoid the “back to school plague”?
- Sleep – I know I harp on sleep quite a bit, but I (once again) and going to stress the importance of getting your little guys the proper amount of sleep. What is the proper amount of sleep you may ask? Here you go:
- 1-2-year-olds: 11 to 14 hours (including daytime sleep)
- 3-5-year-olds: 10 to 13 hours
- 6-13-year-olds: 9 to 11 hours
- 14-17-year-olds: 8 to 10 hours (that one is surprising, huh? I thought it would be 20-22 hours)
The second part of that is your kid has probably been going to bed late and waking up late all summer, well that’s about to end. Back to a regular schedule, so it is really important to set an early enough bedtime that your kiddo can get all the
sleep they need to function and stay healthy before they have to get up.
- Nutrition – The second part of good general back to school health is nutrition. Kids do tend to be somewhat picky, so we just need to do the best we can. What I try to do is at least present them with decent foods and whether they choose to eat them or not is up to them. Like everyone says, your kid is not going to starve. And, I’m not perfect about it. If my kid is jamming on butter noodles, I at least buy good organic pasta and butter and get real cheese to grate on top (and I load up on the butter and cheese). If they want eggos for breakfast, then I at least pair it with real maple syrup, fruit, and eggs or bacon. Some days I don’t even have the time to present them with a breakfast feast, so if they get cereal one or two mornings a week, that’s called survival, but maybe I can get a banana down them too. I don’t want parents to stress out too much, but do the best you can, present them with meat and veggies some meals and chances are they’ll gobble most of it up. Point is, you’ve got to give you kids a good nutritional base, you are going to be doomed to the 8-12 colds a year that the average kid gets (crazy number, but true).
- Probiotics – So I already harped on the importance of probiotics for kids in an earlier blog, and that is still super important. But there is another type of probiotic specifically for preventing upper respiratory infections (i.e. colds, strep, ear infections, etc.) that my kids take during times when those things are prevalent (which is pretty much mid-august through may). It is called ProbioMax™ ENT and what it does is pretty interesting. It is a probiotic that activates in the oral cavity (not the GI tract) where it provides protection as the first line of defense against bad bacteria. Sounds crazy, but I have a 4 and 5 year old who have both been in preschool (it doesn’t get more bacteria ridden, lick you on the face gross than preschool) since they were 18 months and neither of them has ever needed an antibiotic or had strep or an ear infection (although, as I write this, I’m sure they will come down with something today). It tastes great, the kids love it, it’s not expensive, so all I’m saying is why not?
So there we have it, I’m not saying your kids will never get another cold, but this is the best regimen I can come up with for them to get the minimum amount of cold, flu, strep, ear infections possible. Because let’s face it, when one of the kids gets sick it’s a total pain in the rear. Then the other kid gets sick, then you get sick, next thing you know the house is down for the count for 2-3 weeks, you’re healthy for a week, and then the cycle starts again. Let’s keep the cycle to a minimum! Until next time…..Dr. Kent.