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Caution! School May Be Hazardous to Children’s Health! Part II

Our first blog on the subject of schools and children’s health looked at ways to limit their exposure to germs through awareness and hygiene. An equally important way to protect your children from germs in their schools is to make sure they are practicing good health habits that keep their bodies fit and their immune systems strong and resistant to illness.

Let’s start with the subject of sleep. I know you’re probably thinking, “What’s sleep? I never get enough.” Well, did you know that your children probably aren’t getting enough either? According to the CDC, pre-teens need at least 10 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers need between 9 and 10 hours. Most children (and their parents) have no conception of their high sleep requirements. So begin by talking to your children and making them aware of their actual sleep needs. Stress the importance of tackling homework as soon as possible after school so there is at least the hope of an early enough bedtime. Limit TV viewing and the amount of time they are allowed to spend on cell phones, tablets, and computers when they are not working on homework. Not only is time spent in front of these devises time that could be spent on precious sleep, these electronics rev up brain activity and delay the production of melatonin thus preventing your children (and you?) from falling asleep easily, staying asleep, and sleeping deeply.

Next, let’s look at the subject of eating—a favorite topic for many of us! Eating healthily on the run is difficult but not impossible. Keep fruits and vegetables cut up in the refrigerator at all times and have a good supply of nuts, seeds, nut spreads, cheeses, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs available to meet high protein demands. Yes, I know no one likes cutting up vegetables, but it really isn’t as time consuming as it seems, and it’s well worth it to know there are healthy foods for your children to grab as they head out the door. If your children are old enough, you can make preparing these healthy items a family project, and once produce is cut up, it should stay fresh in the crisper for at least several days. Your kids don’t like vegetables (and, truth be told, you don’t either)? Hummus is a healthy vegetable dip, and yogurt is a great base for both vegetable and fruit dips. Add some seasonings or honey and cinnamon and you have dips that taste great and are actually good for you! But don’t just focus on your children’s snacks. Send them to school with home packed lunches whenever possible, and try to keep them away from fast food during the week and save the pizza and Whataburger for weekends with their friends.

Finally, make sure your children get some fresh air and exercise on a regular basis. You may think they already are, but many schools no longer provide time for recess, and those that do may be offering it on a limited basis. In a number of schools, gym classes are limited and not always mandatory. Those children who are not in some sort of after-school sports program should be encouraged to get up and get going—especially outside. Besides competitive teams, there are dance classes, yoga classes, swimming lessons, and a host of other activities to fit every child’s personality and exercise needs. But children don’t need organized classes to get exercise. They can be encouraged to organize activities with their friends, to walk instead of ride whenever possible, to take the stairs instead of the elevator—all things we adults should be doing as well! You might even consider taking a quick family walk together several evenings a week. Besides being good for your bodies, it’s also great way to connect with one another.

For more ideas on how to improve your family’s health habits, talk to the professionals at Hillcrest Medical where your family’s health and safety is their number one concern!

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