With the school year under way, you may be concerned about your child’s health. Germs spread easily in classroom environments. Unlike summer weather, cold and dry conditions in the fall and winter are ideal environments for viruses, allowing them to thrive and spread easily.Due to their underdeveloped immune systems, children get sick much more often than adults, as often as 7-8 times per year. However, there are many natural strategies that you can employ to try and reduce how often your child gets sick. Here are some tips on keeping your child in optimal health this school year:
The right diet and nutrition can go a long way
While challenging for picky eaters, a good diet and nutrition is vital to keeping your child healthy. Whether it’s during meals or snacks, try to work in fruits and vegetables wherever you can. Adequate amounts of protein are also important.
There are plenty of foods that should be avoided, too. In addition to sugar, children today tend to eat too many carbohydrates. It’s best to keep them away from bread, starches and sugar. You should also focus on preparing whole foods rather than heavily processed goods.
Additionally, it’s important to educate your children about which foods are snacks versus treats. For example, food like cookies are treats that need to be limited. Snacks, on the other hand, should include healthy options like fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, cheese, beans, oatmeal, and nuts. It might seem simple but setting up that thought process early can help immensely as a child grows and develops.
Try adding fish oil to their daily vitamin routine
Children often take daily multivitamins to ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrients. One ingredient that’s often missing is omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to promoting brain development and good gut health, according to 2019 study, some specific immune functions are promoted by dietary omega-3 fatty acids. Other studies have shown that fish oil may even help with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other mood disorders.
Therefore, adding fish oil to your child’s daily vitamin routine is a great way to improve many aspects of your child’s health. Fish oil doesn’t have to be taken in the form of a pill either. You can find fish oil in the form of a liquid that is flavored and made specifically for children.
Ensure your child is getting enough sleep
Sleep is an essential element to good health. If your child is getting less than the recommended hours, it can lead to serious health issues, some of which are directly tied to immune function. Studies show that sleep influences infection outcome and even their response to vaccination. This is because sleep affects the body’s ability to produce proteins called cytokines, which help fight infection and reduce inflammation.
Children, and even teenagers, need more hours of sleep than adults. The specific amount recommended varies by age. For example, toddlers need 12-16 hours of sleep per 24 hours while children ages 6-12 need 9–12 hours, etc., according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Childhood is the best time to learn good sleep habits. If children start with bad habits, they can snowball and cause the development of other sleep issues.
Keep track of screen time
It can be easy to lose track of how long your child is spending in front of screens, whether it’s their cell phone, computer or television. However, these devices can have a profound effect on the mind and body.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), too much screen time can lead to mood, sleep and weight problems along with lower grades in school and body image issues. The AACAP recommends varying amounts of screen time depending on age. For children 2-5, non-educational screen time should be limited to about 1 hour per weekday and 3 hours on the weekend days. While there’s no limit recommended for children 6 and older, the AACAP recommends teaching them healthy habits.
Some of these healthy habits include turning off all screens during family meals and outings and not using screens as pacifiers, babysitters, or to stop tantrums. Screens should also be turned off and removed from bedrooms 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
Stay active with fun family activities
When summer ends and children spend more time inside, it can become more difficult to keep them active. In addition to outdoor activities, there are many physical games that can be played inside to keep them moving. You can try balancing games like Twister or indoor hopscotch, tightrope walking and freeze dancing. For a description of these games and others, click here.
You can also try out activities that promote fine motor skills and dexterity like puzzles, painting and other crafts. Another way to keep them active is by getting them involved with meal prep and cooking. Even cooking a batch of cookies once a week for the family to enjoy can be a great activity that teaches many skills.
Consider getting your child adjusted
Children of any age, from newborn and older, can benefit from getting adjusted. Chiropractic physicians who specialize in pediatrics tend to focus on activating and taking stress off the parasympathetic nervous system, which can help the body function better in general.
Overall, chiropractic physicians can help with a lot of common childhood complaints like constipation, acid reflux, sleep issues, ADHD, ear infections, sensory concerns, etc. Like the rest of their patients, chiropractic physicians will take an individualized, whole body approach to improve your child’s health challenges.
At National University, students learn how to treat pediatric populations during a Special Populations Course. They’re also able to gain hands-on experience treating children during their time at the Whole Health Center.
If you’re interested in working with children and want to learn more, read a blog about one NUHS alum who has already started a successful career in this specialty since graduating in 2021.
About the Author
Dr. Anna Jurik