Dr. McLaughlin is joined by Dr Patty Short, MD as they continue with “Part II of the Back to School Checklist”
Part II: Encourage and Maintain Healthy Habits.”
School is back in session. The dinner table is strewn with homework assignments and textbooks. It seems that the clothes you just purchased for your student already show signs of being way too small. Nurturing the growing minds and bodies of our students is probably the best investment we will ever make. Remaining safe and healthy during the school year ensures your students get the most from their time spent away from home.
Following are a few healthy habits to consider:
1. Sleep: The secret weapon for school success
Your child may not be getting enough of it. Recent studies show that our children are getting one hour less sleep than they did 30 years ago. This may have to do with increased extra-curricular activities, increased quantity of homework, and the prevalence of electronic distractions. Not only does lack of sleep affect cognitive skills and academic achievement, but a continuing lack of sleep is linked to serious health problems including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, and a shortened life span. The National Sleep Foundation states that children aged 5-10 years need 10-11 hours of sleep nightly and teenagers need at least 8-9 hours per night.
Mary Sheedy Kurcinca, M.A., in her book entitled “Sleepless in America” likens sleep preparation to pilots preparing to land a jumbo jet.
Miles from their destination, the pilots begin to prepare. They check weather, determine which runway to utilize, the level of instrumentation to use on approach, as well as the optimal speed… Back in the cabin, the flight attendants prepare the passengers by announcing “Ladies and gentleman, we are beginning our descent…we expect to arrive in twenty-five minutes.” What the crew is trained to know is that conscientious preparation and a gradual descent lead to a soft landing and satisfied customers. (Kurcinka, 2007)
Since most of our children are constantly flying around from one activity to another, creating the ideal environment in which the slow descent may require a well-planned approach, incorporating soft music, story telling, and other calming activities that help your child come down from the “high” of the day to a “soft landing”. More tips and suggestions can be found at: http://www.greatschools.org/parenting/health-nutrition/620-sleep-the-secret-weapon-for-school-success.gs
2. Encourage hand-washing habits
How can Yankee Doodle (or a Happy Birthday) improve your health? Did you know that 80% of all transmitted diseases occur by touch? All day long, your child is exposed to bacteria and viruses—when touching a playmate, sharing toys, or petting the dog or cat. The contact may only last seconds, but the subsequent illnesses may last days, weeks, or longer. Encourage your child to wash their hands often and thoroughly. Here are a few tips.
- Remember to wash before eating (snacks and meals), after playing outdoors, after using the bathroom, after sneezing or coughing, playing with the pet, and more regularly when someone in the house is ill.
- Studies have shown no benefit to using warm-hot water over cold. In fact, hotter water may damage sensitive skin and cause dermatitis.
- There’s no replacement for thorough washing with soap and water. When this is not available, antimicrobial alcohol gels and solutions are a satisfactory substitute, followed by hand-washing as soon as available.
- Proper hand washing requires 15 seconds of vigorous scrubbing after applying soap to wet hands. Fifteen seconds is about the length of one verse of “Yankee Doodle” or twice through the Happy Birthday song.
For more information, visit the Center For Disease control website – http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/
Stay tuned for Part III of the Back to School Checklist on Doctor’s Corner.