Children miss close to 22 million school days annually as a result of the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC also reports more than 32 million school-aged children missed school in the past 12 months due to illness or injury. As a parent, it’s your job to make sure your little ones are staying healthy. But what can you be doing besides serving veggies and encouraging regular hand-washing?
1. Vitamins and Supplements
Some experts argue vitamins are unnecessary with a healthy diet, but if you’ve got a picky eater, they can be a lifesaver. Not to mention, studies have shown vitamins can improve your child’s health in unexpected ways. A report published in Nutrition Reviews revealed kids taking vitamin D supplements had a 47 percent reduced risk of dental cavities and acute otitis media (middle ear infections).
2. Dental Health Care
Countless studies have verified the influence dental health has on overall health, and it’s no secret dental hygiene habits start early. Even if your child only has baby teeth, it’s crucial they develop consistent habits now. In fact, Kool Smiles recommends wiping your baby’s gums with a clean finger or damp cloth even before teeth come in. In addition to standard brushing and flossing, have your child see the dentist at least twice per year to detect any problems early. Limit consumption of soda, starches and sugary snacks to prevent cavities, and encourage drinking darker beverages through straws to limit contact with the teeth.
3. Proper Dress
Kids are much more sensitive and vulnerable to disease than adults. Going without a jacket may cause you to be a little uncomfortable, but for your child, it could mean a 24-hour cold. Make sure your child dresses in layers during transitional seasons, so they can maintain comfort despite changing weather patterns. Replace shoes and socks as soon as you notice signs of wear, since improper footwear can cause both illness and injury.
4. Limited Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics warns children who regularly spend more than four hours per day watching TV have a greater chance of being overweight. Since obesity has grown to be such an epidemic in the U.S., teach your children the importance of physical exercise to maintain a healthy weight. To reduce screen time, sign your child up for a physical activity (soccer, ballet, karate, etc.) that will keep him or her occupied and active during after-school hours.
5. Plenty of Sleep
KidsHealth.org reports too little sleep can affect a child’s growth and immune system. Sleep helps your brain function and restore itself after each day, which leads to improved information retention and learning. The National Sleep Foundation says children between the ages of 5-12 need 10-11 hours of sleep. It might seem excessive for those of us used to eight hours, but kids grow and develop at a much faster rate than adults.