As we continue to modify our lifestyles during this pandemic, it’s important to keep in mind some every day tips to try to stay healthy. In addition, we’ve added some healthy living tips for everyone to try and practice with their families as they navigate virtual and in-person learning.
Tips for Staying Healthy
Basic Everyday Tips
Hand washing is more important now than ever before. The average person touches his or her face an average of 25 times per hour! But it’s not only washing FREQUENCY, but washing QUALITY that really prevents illness.
So what’s the right way to do it?
- Wet hands first.
- Add soap and rub hands together while singing the ABCs one time through, (which equates to about 20 seconds - fun fact, most people only wash their hands for 6 seconds - that’s adults!) then rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly.
- Keeping your kids hydrated can help keep them healthy, happy and active. In fact, water makes up more than half of your child's body weight and plays an important role in keeping their body functioning properly.
- Several glasses of water a day can increase concentration and focus in children. It promotes healthy weight loss and assists in removing waste and toxins to maintain digestive regularity.
- Wearing a mask properly is the key to ensuring the mask is doing its job! Make sure your child’s mask fits over his or her mouth AND nose. Make sure it’s not too loose or too snug and that the fabric is breathable. Clean masks every day or rotate a few. Reinforce to them that their mask IS breathable.
If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your doctor.
COVID-19 Symptoms include:
- a new or worsening cough
- a fever of at least 38°C
- shortness of breath
- sore throat
- sneezing and runny nose
- temporary loss of smell
- Did you know that 80 percent of common infections are transmitted through hands? Hands are germs’ favorite mode of transportation and now that kids are wearing masks and have a tendency to tug or adjust them, it can mean more germs to the face. Protecting and cleansing hands AND keeping hands away from the facial area where most germs enter the body is key.
- Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many families have delayed routine medical care and vaccinations – and this can have long-term health effects. While social distancing is an important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19, delaying essential trips like medical appointments can come with its own set of risks.
- Keep your child up-to-date on vaccines and keep routine checkup appointments. If you aren't sure if your child is up-to-date or not, call your pediatrician's office to find out.
- Families now face a double threat: COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. As we do our best to prepare our communities, healthcare officials agree: It's vitally important for families not to delay or skip their annual flu vaccinations.
- Keep your support network strong, even when you’re only able to call or text friends and family. Socializing plays an important role in regulating your mood and helping you stay grounded. And the same is true for your children.
- Let kids use social media (within reason) and Skype or FaceTime to stay connected to peers even if they aren’t usually allowed to do so. Communication can help kids feel less alone and mitigate some of the stress that comes from being away from friends.
- Technology can also help younger kids feel closer to relatives or friends they can’t see at the moment.
Make sure you have medicine cabinet essentials on hand:
- fever reducers and pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- an antihistamine, decongestants and a multi-symptom cough
- cold and flu medicine to break up the mucus in coughs
- Pedialyte, Gatorade or an electrolyte replacement beverage is good to have on hand too and since it’s shelf-stabilized, it can sit for months until you need it
- A working thermometer is also a good idea to have on hand
In addition to sleep, children need a healthy, well-balanced diet full of vitamins and nutrients. A healthy diet can help their bodies function well and prevent disease. Your child's diet should include:
- Lean proteins like fish and chicken
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Avoid added sugar and sugary beverages
- Vitamins A, C and E, in addition to protein and probiotics can really up your child’s defenses against fighting germs and viruses.
- Sitting in front of a screen for seven hours is hard enough for some kids, so make sure their “work space” is set up to be comfortable, yet conducive to work. Because kids are at home, it’s very easy for them to revert to ‘comfort mode’ and slouch or look around or even lay down, so make sure they feel like they are in a typical learning environment as much as possible.
- Computers should be situated on a desk or table that sits about eye-level. Their chair should have a high back to support them. Make sure they have good, natural lighting if possible. Even if kids are on laptops, resist the urge to have them set up somewhere new depending on their whims that day. It’s important to go to the same, consistent place every day to reinforce the idea that that is the place for school.
Maintain a Schedule
- Having a set schedule is especially hard if your kids’ school is offering a hybrid learning environment. Some days they go to school, some days they are online; this can lead to erratic schedules and extra stress. Even on days your child is home, try to maintain their schedules in terms of bedtime, wake time, breakfast and lunch time, chore time and after school time. And if they have days when they are learning virtually, make sure they get out of their pajamas and brush their teeth, which adds to the structure and routine of a normal school day.
- Regardless of the looming uncertainty for this school year, one thing is for sure - kids need some semblance of schedule and recreating the structure of school, even when kids aren’t actually in school, is vital. When kids have certain aspects of their lives they can count on, things that are the same, reliable and consistent, then their brains are better equipped to learn. It’s hard for all of us not to be occupied by worry, stress, even anger, about what’s going on in the world. Kids can feel a deep loss of control, so the more we can maintain ‘normal’ or predictable things that kids can count on, the better they will be.
- While adhering to a regular schedule can be beneficial to both parents and kids, it’s certainly ok to let your kids have some unstructured play time or free time too. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from these months living in a pandemic, it’s that we have to learn to adapt to new ways of doing things. But the more consistency in their schedules, the better they can cope with the things they can’t control.
- Sleeping is probably the most important element of any child’s healthy schedule, because if sleep is off, everything else seems to falter. Younger children may need 10-12 hours a night, while adolescents can get by on 8-9 hours. Try to keep their circadian clocks at a regular pace. Keep a set time for hitting the sack and include some winding-down time. Limit the use of screens before turning in; they interfere with the routine and with sleep itself.
- Exercise is especially important for children during the pandemic because it can reduce stress, prevent weight gain, and boost the immune system. Physical exercise can also help keep cortisol (stress hormone) levels down, so try to get outside to play and run around.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends school-age children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day; preschoolers should be active throughout the day.
- Keep up fruit and vegetable intake
- Swap in healthy dried or canned alternatives when fresh produce is not available
- Build up a stock of healthy snacks
- Limit highly processed foods
- Make cooking and eating a fun and meaningful part of your family routine
- Staring at a screen all day can be hard for anyone - especially kids! So how do you keep your kids engaged and energized while sitting and looking at a screen for hours on end? The key is multiple breaks. When you notice your kids are on school breaks, make them stand up, do jumping jacks, stretch - just get them up and their eyes away from the screen.