A Dubai paediatrician gives her expert advice on how parents can keep their kids healthy as schools reopen
26 August 2020| Last updated on 17 February 2021
Read on to learn how kids can get back to school healthily during Covid-19
Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of our community AND play a critical role in supporting the child’s health and wellbeing.
Going back to school will likely look different this year due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Children can easily transfer infections to one another and bring them home, but by teaching them some important healthy habits, parents can feel reassured about their child and family’s health.
Here are some tips on how to keep your kids healthy, according to an expert paediatrician at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital and Mediclinic Mirdif Hospital in Dubai.
Teach good hygiene habits and proper handwashing
A proper handwashing technique along with social distancing and the use of masks have proven to be the best way to minimise the spread of viruses. We should teach our kids how to wash their hands properly especially after blowing their nose, using the bathroom and before eating.
One of the ways this can be done is by encouraging them to sing the alphabet or their favourite song from beginning to the end; this should give them an idea on how much time should be spent on this task. They should make sure to wash the fronts and the backs of their hands as well as in between their fingers.
Don’t have a tissue? Teach your kids to cough or sneeze into their elbow to prevent spreading germs.
Visit the doctor's office
An annual check-up will ensure your kids are healthy and virus free before heading back to school. Of course, the most effective way to prevent disease is through vaccinations. Make sure their immunisations are up to-date.
Flu vaccines are heavily recommended for all school-age children to reduce the spread of influenza this autumn and winter.
There is growing interest among parents about giving kids supplements like vitamin C and zinc. However, you should always consult with your child's doctor before giving them supplements.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend multivitamins for healthy children who eat a varied diet. Always remember, the best way for your children to get their vitamins is from their foods, which brings us to our next point.
Children require regular healthy meals and snacks to give them the energy and nutrients they need to grow and fight off illness. Here are the best tips on how to do that:
1. Provide a healthy breakfast
Breakfast is really the most important meal of the day when it comes to school children. A balanced breakfast has been shown to be important for brain function as well as for maintaining a steady level of energy throughout the day and a general good health.
2. Make lunchtime fun
School lunch is more than just a time to fill your kid’s rumbling tummy, it is also an opportunity for both of you to have some fun.
Let your kids help you come up with ideas for yummy main dishes and sides dressed up in colourful combinations and shapes. Expand their food repertoire. Promote fruits and veggies as healthy snacks, even if it is just one item in the mix of the typical lunchbox.
3. Stay hydrated
Keeping your kids hydrated with healthy drink choices like water and milk has many benefits. It will help prevent fatigue, improve mood, aid digestion and maintenance, and enhance brain function.
Kids typically sit most of their school day, so incorporating sports and exercise into their daily routine will keep them focused, improve their behaviour and boost their positive attitude.
Youth sports are a chance to learn about teamwork, goal setting, and self-esteem. The best approach is to focus on learning lifelong skills and having fun.
Get bedtimes back on track
Making sure your children get enough sleep is a crucial part of keeping them healthy. Getting adequate sleep also can prepare kids for the stresses they experience throughout the day—particularly at school.
The best way to get your children on a school sleep schedule after the summer is to start gradually and create a routine by setting a firm bedtime and re-establishing that bedtime routine.
Children aged from seven to 12 years old need 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Preteens and teens need eight to nine hours.
Manage back-to-school stress/anxiety
Sources of anxiety vary with age – and can affect kindergartners to teens leaving for college.
The key is to personalise it to each child. What works for one may not work for the other. For some kids this might mean writing in a journal while others might enjoy playing a board game or going for walk.
However, if your child seems more distressed than what you think is normal, don't hesitate to contact your child's doctor. The doctor can make recommendations on ways to address your child's anxiety and stress.
In conclusion, keeping your child's immune system strong is an important way to stay healthy and ward off illness during the school year.
Getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, managing stress, exercising, making time to laugh, and emphasising hand washing can help reduce your child's risk of getting colds, flu, and other infections.
Authored by Dr. Nevine A. El Kabbany
Dr. Nevine A. El Kabbany
Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, Mediclinic Mirdif