Getting off to a great start
SOME SIMPLE GUIDELINES ON NUTRITION, GOOD HABITS AND HYGIENE CAN EASE THE TRANSITION BACK TO SCHOOL
brand new school year is just round the bend with parents and wards getting ready for busy times ahead. Dr Sarah Rizk and Dr Rouba Abdennour, paediatricians at Shamma Clinic, Dubai, speak about a renewed approach to safety and health when embarking on a new academic year. “When back-to-school guidelines focus on nutrition, good habits and hygiene, it is easy for parents to keep their children healthy throughout the school year.
This will in turn lead to a productive environment while maintaining a balanced lifestyle, besides promising a seamless shift from summer break to school routines,’’ observe the paediatricians speaking to Panorama.
It is advised that the whole family should get vaccinated as early as possible prior to the start of a school year. Contracting the flu can mean a long cycle of illness for the whole family, with household members falling ill in tandem, which can be easily avoided with an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older.
It is essential for children (and adults!) to get a healthy amount of sleep each night to stay focused throughout the day.
Lack of sleep can lead to a deteriorating immune system, making children more susceptible to classroom-borne illnesses. Children and adolescents typically need eight to 10 hours
of good sleep. To avoid the morning fuss on school days, consider making their bedtimes a little earlier each night for a week or two before school starts.
Good hygiene habits
To help children avoid getting sick and prevent them from bringing germs home, it is important to show them how to maintain good hygiene. Teach them to wash their hands after using the restroom and before going to lunch or eating a snack. It may be smart to provide children with on-the-go hand sanitiser to use when washing their hands isn’t convenient and/or baby wipes.
Fingernails are a breeding ground for bacteria. The germs that live under your child’s nails can easily transfer to their eyes, nose, and mouth. Invest in a good nail brush and help your child scrub the dirt out from under their nails before bedtime. At home, wash hair regularly and teach your children never to share personal objects like combs, pillows, and hats, to avoid contracting lice from other children.
Promote healthy eating
It might be easy to pack lunches with pre-made snacks, but a healthy diet is of the utmost importance, and junk foods do not fit into the equation. Parents can make it easier for themselves by stocking up on healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread and lean protein like turkey. Parents can also add more variety to lunches by getting a small ice pack and an insulated lunch bag. Such foods make for a healthy gut, as well as providing the right nutrition and energy to keep kids fuelled through the school-term, avoiding illness and fatigue.
It is not just enough to eat five fruits and vegetables a day — it is very important to eat five or more colours every day. Different colours have different health benefits so more colours mean more advantage. Buy your children a cool water bottle as an initiative to get them to drink more water. Juice and sweet drinks need to be kept as “sometimes food,” but drinking water should be encouraged and reinforced constantly.
While back-to-school season is stressful for children and parents alike, too much stress can lead to a range of health issues such as insomnia and sluggish immune systems. Parents can help manage stress by encouraging their children to discuss their emotions, anticipation and needs. Parents must also take care to not overload anyone’s schedule, including their own. Schoolwork and after-school activities are important, but it is also essential to take time to relax, play and spend time as a family, strengthening family ties.
Young people (aged 5-18) require three types of physical activity to stay healthy or to improve health. These are aerobic exercises and exercises that are targeted at strengthening bone and muscles. At a basic level, young people require 60 minutes of physical exercise a day, ranging from moderate activity, such as cycling and playground activities to rigorous activity such as running and tennis.
Additionally, on three days a week, these activities should involve exercises for strong muscles and bones, such as swinging on playground equipment, hopping and skipping, and sports such as gymnastics or tennis.
Paediatricians at Shamma Clinic, Dubai, Dr Sarah Rizk (left) and Dr Rouba Abdennour.