Fighting fit for the new term

Start the new academic session in the best of health and avoid those pesky sick days

Heading back to school for the new term is one of the most exciting times of year for students. Seeing friends after weeks apart and getting ready to learn new things is all part of settling into the new term. Unfortunately, though, as children gather again, this is also a time when there is a surge in the transmission of bugs and viruses. To reduce the chances of getting sick this term, parents should think ahead. Whilst holidays may involve late nights, unhealthy eating habits and being out of a normal routine, it is important to get an early bedtime and a nutritious diet before heading back to school.

“The best time to book an appointment for your children is before going back to school. The physician can help the kids stay healthy by advising healthy eating habits and updating their vaccines, which prevents serious diseases.”

It is critical to get children into tip-top shape for the new term as, according to Dr Shamim, one of the reasons that children frequently get sick is that their immune systems are weaker than that of adults. Some of the most common ailments for children heading back to school include colds, influenza, gastroenteritis, ear infections, head lice and pink eye, which is commonly known as conjunctivitis. Although as parents we can’t control what our children do in school, keeping vaccinations up to date and teaching them basic hygiene, will make all the difference.

“Parents can safeguard their children from common back-to-school illnesses through up-to-date vaccinations and by implementing basic practices of proper hand hygiene,” says Dr Abed Homsi, Specialist Paediatrician, Burjeel Day Surgery Center, Al Reem Island.

“This includes instructing kids not to share personal items or food with others and educating them about curbing the spread of infections by avoiding close contact with sick classmates. The most effective means of preventing infection transmission revolves around maintaining good hand hygiene. This entails frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. It is also important to cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, followed by proper disposal of the tissue in a trash bin. If a tissue is unavailable, coughing or sneezing into the elbow is recommended instead of the hands.”

Pack a healthy lunchbox

An additional way to keep children healthy is by packing a nutritious lunchbox to boost their immune systems.

“Dietary choices have a big impact on various aspects of our health. Diets rich in dietary fibre play a pivotal role in nurturing and sustaining beneficial microorganisms within the gut. These microbes have been proven to invigorate the activity of immune cells, thereby contributing to a robust immune system,” says Dr Homsi.

“A well-rounded dietary approach, comprising generous portions of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, seeds, moderate amounts of unsaturated fats, meats, dairy, and fatty fish, offers a wealth of essential nutrients. These nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, B6, B12, copper, folate, iron, and selenium, are integral to the optimal functioning of the immune system.”

With a good night’s sleep, a nutritious diet and a full vaccine record, you can ensure that your child is in the best shape possible to head back to school. However, whilst many children will be looking forward to getting back to the classroom, there will be others who might be feeling anxious. If your child is struggling with anxiety, talk to them and help with whatever needs to be addressed.

The back-to-school period is also an important time to reassure your child that change can be unsettling and sometimes it takes a while to adjust.

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