Preparing to go back to school is going to look different this year. Parents, teachers and children will be returning to a different kind of school environment and many parents are concerned about how it may affect their family’s health.
Families have a right to be concerned. In Israel schools were reopened in May after cases had dropped from about 750 cases a day to low double digits each day. When schools opened May 17th there were 10 confirmed cases in the country.
It took less than two weeks for an outbreak to occur at a Jeruselum high school. This trend continued and led to tens of thousands of people forced back into quarantine.
With this in mind, many families are seeking the best practices to put in place to protect their family’s health. While some parents are electing to keep their children at home and do online learning, this is not a possibility for all families. Those who are doing in-person learning want to also minimize their risk.
We asked two esteemed members of our medical team, Dr. Richard Honaker and Dr. Kate Killoran, to offer their best tips for a safer return back to school.
Prepare to go back
While many children are eager to go back to school after an extended break away, children will not be returning to the same classroom environment. It is important for parents to prepare their children for those changes well in advance in age-appropriate ways.
Take the time to introduce your children to the idea of wearing maks and doing social distancing. You can prepare your kids by watching videos, or even looking at pictures of kids wearing masks. Talk about what sounds like fun or what could be scary about the return to school.
Let your child or children know the unease of social distancing will be a temporary feeling.
Explain to your child that in order to stay healthy we need to follow some new rules. It may feel different or scary at first, but in time they will get more comfortable.
You can practice wearing a mask, good handwashing techniques and social distancing between the kids in the classroom. Send your children with hand sanitizer and teach them when and how much to use. Practice and repetition can help form a habit.
Read next: Coronavirus: recognizing the signs
What is the Best Mask for Kids?
Protect Your Child’s Immune System
The ability to increase or enhance your immune system is a common myth. However, there are ways to keep your immune system healthy and better able to fight off illness.
Get enough sleep: Getting an adequate amount of sleep is not a magic prevention of illness. However, sleep deprivation can lead to illness. This is because while you sleep your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. These proteins have different functions, from promoting sleep to increasing when you have an infection or inflammation. Skipping out on sleep may decrease the production of these proteins, which would have an adverse effect on the body.
Eat a colorful diet including the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables. Many items from this food group can also have a positive impact on your immune system. Parents can encourage their children by packing a healthy lunch, starting the day off with whole foods and making healthy choices for themselves.
Encourage your children to drink plenty of fluids during the day. Many schools are prohibiting the use of water fountains so it is more important than even to pack lots of water for your children to drink during the day.
Reduce stress: While they may be young, children can also experience stress. Parents can help their children by talking through their fears, participating in favourite (safe) activities and reminding them they are safe at school. Meditation apps and yoga can also help calm children’s anxieties. There are many free resources available on You Tube.
Recognize the Signs
Many parents are worried the onset of the cold and flu symptoms could cause worrisome symptoms to go unnoticed. The best rule of thumb is to be aware of the location of the illness in the body. The common cold should mainly affect the head, while COVID-19 usually affects the lungs. However, with children, the virus can present differently. It is important to get your child tested and isolate if you suspect COVID-19.
Serious and Worrisome symptoms include:
- Fever above 100
- Shortness of breath
- Alteration in smell or taste
- Cold sweat
- Worsening symptoms.
Related: Talk to a doctor and avoid the germs
Start the School Year Right
While parents may have mixed feelings about sending children back to school, it is important to keep positive when discussing the transition with your children. Explain that while the classroom will look different and have different rules this year, it does not mean your child will not be able to have fun.
Look for educational resources tailored to children to help with the transition and avoid the sensationalized media coverage that may cause anxiety. Even older children may experience stress at this type of media.
Are you concerned about your child’s health? Your Doctors Online is an all-in-one healthcare solution for families. We provide a 24-hour real-time connection to a team of board-certified physicians as well as tools to easily manage your family’s health.
Imagine never having to worry about forgetting your insurance card, missing milestone vaccinations or simply missing that last dose of antibiotics. Your Doctors Online makes managing your family’s health convenient, affordable, and easy.