School days, school days, merry golden rule days…..How is it already back-to-school time? This summer flew right past me. Wow.
Back to school means a lot of different things to different people. To kids, it means the end of the freedom of summertime. Back to structure and homework. For parents, it means back to busy evenings and hectic mornings. And for pediatricians, it means back to seeing sick kids.
Below, I’ll address the hectic mornings. But first, let’s discuss why your kid is going to get sick as soon as he goes back to school and ways to avoid it. During the summer, kids tend to be outside more – wide open spaces where the germs can float away. Once they are back inside a classroom, they are exposed to more germs that like to just sit on surfaces. One child sneezes at the pool and no one notices. The same child sneezes inside a packed classroom and the germs land on the surrounding desks or tables. Then the next child sits at that desk, is exposed to the droplets, and then touches his own nose.
In addition, when constantly exposed to similar germs the immune system builds up and offers protection. But when not exposed to those germs, the immune system forgets how to fight them off. So after an extended break – such as summer vacation – the immune system doesn’t remember what to do to prevent illness. Don’t worry, this isn’t unique to students. I tend to never catch the bugs that I see in the office, unless I’ve spent more than a week away from seeing patients. Then I catch everything until my immune system builds back up.
What can you do to prevent your kid from getting sick? Make sure she’s getting enough sleep, for one thing. The immune system needs rest to stay strong, so aim for 9-10 hours/night for elementary students and 8-9 hours/night for junior high and high school students. Then teach your child from an early age to not share drinks/bottles/food and to avoid putting their mouth on a water fountain. Finally, make sure he washes his hands well after using the bathroom and before eating. That means soap & water, rubbing the entire time he sings “Happy Birthday” twice. Regardless, remember that the average person (kid or adult) catches 8-10 illnesses each year. Since these tend to be clustered in the winter months, it could very easily be a new virus every few weeks.
When does your child need to see a doctor? Some reasons include symptoms that improve and then worsen again, fever less than 101F for more than 2 days, sore throat in the absence of cold symptoms, cough waking her at nighttime, or anything else you find concerning. Don’t forget, we are available for same-day sick visits if you call early in the day.
Here are my best tips for handling those hectic mornings:
- Prepare everything you can the night before. Pack up the backpacks, lay out clothes (and shoes!!), get lunches ready. Sign permission slips or reading logs. Get your child to help do this before bed.
- Don’t skip breakfast – even for adults! Try to incorporate a protein into breakfast to help get through the morning hours. Add peanut butter to the English muffin, hard boil a dozen eggs on Sunday night and have them peeled and ready to grab in the morning, stock Greek yogurt pouches for a ready-to-eat protein, or eat a piece of string cheese as you walk out the door. If all else fails, throw some things into your blender for a healthy-start smoothie: fruit for sweetness, Greek yogurt or peanut butter powder for protein, some spinach or kale for extra vitamins, and milk or a splash of 100% juice to blend.
- Have a checklist in a visible spot so your child can be responsible for getting himself ready to leave. Picture charts are helpful for the younger kids. Items on the checklist may include getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, putting on shoes, etc. Include any chores your child may have as well, such as feeding the dog or cleaning off the table.
- Leave extra time! If your morning routine takes 45 minutes, wake the kids up an hour before you need to leave the house. This will allow for the inevitable emergency, such as an extra bathroom stop or not being able to find a favorite jacket. Not sure how much time you need? Have a dry run the week before school starts. Plan an outing somewhere early one morning and time how long it takes to get everyone out the door.
Don’t forget to take a picture of your kids on their first day of school! It’s always fun to compare the first & last day, or the first day of each grade. We’d love to see these pictures on our Facebook page, too! Check it out and be sure to follow us for important announcements.