At this time of year, many children are either returning to school, or starting their school life for the first time. Help to reduce the amount of time your child is off ill by teaching them good hygiene practices and ensuring they have a healthy, balanced diet.
Families often see an increase in common colds and diarrhoeal disease upon a child’s return to school. Although vaccinations can protect your child from some serious diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, we do not have vaccines to protect children from every type of infection. Helping your child to understand good hygiene practices will help them keep germs at bay and prevent infections.
- Thorough hand washing is one of the best ways to stop germs from spreading and causing tummy upsets and other infections. Teach your child how and when to wash their hands (for at least 20 seconds).
- Remind children to wash their hands throughout the day, especially after using the toilet, before eating, playing outside, and if their hands look dirty. Teach children to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and to throw it in a bin after use, before washing their hands.
- Make handwashing fun by downloading a handwashing poster to read together and hang by your bathroom sink, or sing a song whilst you’re washing hands.
- Provide your child with a varied and balanced diet, to help protect their health and promote proper growth and development, and concentration during lessons.
- Packed lunches should provide a variety of food in the correct proportions from the four main food groups (fruit and vegetables; bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods; milk and dairy foods; and meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein).There should be a minimum of food and drinks high in fat or sugar, such as chocolate, crisps, cakes and biscuits. When preparing a packed lunch:
- Wash and dry your hands before you start.
- Clean and disinfect the kitchen work surfaces.
- Use an airtight, rigid lunch box that you wash and dry before and after use.
- Check all food is within its use-by or best-before date.
- Use separate chopping boards and knives to prepare ready-to-eat and cooked foods separately from raw foods.
- Wash fruit, salad and vegetables thoroughly.
- Freshly prepare food each day. Less storage time gives less opportunity for germs to grow.
- Plenty of water is a healthier choice than soft drinks that can be high in sugar, sweeteners, additives and even caffeine. Even slight dehydration can lead to poor concentration, lethargy, irritability and headaches.
- If your child has a school meal, talk to them about making healthy choices in terms of balance, variety and nutrition.
- As strong sunlight can easily burn and damage young skin, provide your child with a broad-brimmed sunhat and clothing that protects their shoulders in hot weather. Use sunscreen with a minimum protection factor of 15.
- Teach your child the correct way to safely cross the road.
- Ensure that your child knows how to cycle safely before letting them ride to school on their own or with friends.
- Children who travel by car must use a child restraint (i.e. car seat, booster seat or booster cushion) that is appropriate for their height and weight. If your child travels by bus, ensure they know how to fasten the seatbelt.
- Teach your child what is meant by talking to strangers and who they are allowed to go with after school.
Medication and Illness
- If your child has an ongoing medical condition that requires ongoing support from their school, you must provide the school with information that allows the school to provide for your child’s needs.
- Medicines should only be taken to school when absolutely necessary. If your child has to take medicines during the school day, ask the pharmacist if they will provide this dose in a properly labelled container that can be kept in school.
- If your child is acutely unwell, keep them away from school until they are well enough to return. Children should only attend school if they are well enough to benefit and participate, and not spread their germs or infection.
- Some particular infections, such as chickenpox, mean that your child must stay away for a specified period.
- For diarrhoea and vomiting, your child should remain at home until 48 hours after the last episode. Children should not swim for two weeks after having diarrhoea.