As school bells start ringing again, cold and flu season is also just around the corner. And the anticipation of a new academic year may bring a whirlwind of emotions for the whole family. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to take the right steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from illnesses and excess stress.
Let’s discuss how to prepare for flu season and what back-to-school health precautions you should take for a healthy, happy year. Plus, we’ll cover mental and emotional health tips for school students and the whole family.
The importance of knowing how to prepare for flu season
Recent flu seasons have been relatively mild, especially compared to pre-2020 trends. But as cases in the Southern Hemisphere have soared this year, experts anticipate a surge in flu cases in the Northern Hemisphere, as well.
According to David Cennimo, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, everyone aged 6 months and older can be susceptible to the flu. But older adults are particularly at risk of experiencing complications, with the CDC noting that a staggering 70% to 90% of annual flu fatalities occur in those over 65. Those with underlying health conditions–such as heart disease or diabetes–also have an increased risk of suffering severe complications like heart attacks.
Given these statistics, it’s crucial for everyone–especially those at higher risk–to take preventive measures. If your child is infected with the flu and you live with elderly adults or anyone with an impaired immune system–such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or people with HIV–you’ll need to be extra careful.
The flu causes thousands of deaths each year, and it can spread before you even know you’re infected–about one to two days before any symptoms appear. Contagiousness is usually over within a week, but resulting infection can cause a spectrum of problems ranging from mild to severe illness and even death. So make sure to protect yourself and your family adequately.
Back-to-school health precautions
To keep children and everyone in your household safe, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center (JHCC) experts recommend these precautions:
- Equip students with masks that have at least two layers of closely-knit fabric, ensuring they fit snugly, covering both the nose and mouth.
- Avoid exposing your child to people showing signs of illness, if possible.
- Teach your child to cover his or her nose and mouth with a tissue or the inner elbow when coughing or sneezing.
- Remind your child to wash his or her hands frequently.
- Speak directly with your child’s school regarding their specific safety guidelines.
Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics advise that all students from grades K-12 wear masks at school, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated.
While historically, study results surrounding the efficacy of masks have been mixed, a large-scale 2021 review indicated that mask-wearing does help prevent the spread of viruses. In fact, thanks to these health precautions, the number of pediatric deaths dropped significantly from 199 in the 2019–2020 flu season to just one in the 2021-2022 season.
Health tips for parents and school students
- Always wash your hands before and after attending to your child.
- Clean high-touch surfaces at home frequently.
- Check that your child’s school cleans surfaces regularly and stocks hygiene essentials like hand sanitizer.
- Know the school’s protocols for handling ill students and staff, and their absentee policies.
- Boost your family’s immunity with a nutrient-dense diet, rich in foods like mushrooms, kale, broccoli, and oranges. These foods provide vitamins D, C, and E, which support the body’s natural defenses.
- For extra protection, consider supplementing with vitamins D, C, and E to boost your immune system.
Mental and emotional back-to-school health tips
As kids gear up for back-to-school, it’s not just about physical health. JHCC experts emphasize that their emotional well-being matters too, urging parents to discuss both safety and feelings openly.
It’s a good idea to regularly check in on how children are feeling. According to Dr. Andrea Young, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, simple questions like, “How do you feel about heading back to school?” can open up valuable discussions. If children seem reserved or overwhelmed, it’s essential to delve deeper into their feelings.
And if you notice signs of irritability, anxiety, or prolonged sadness, check in with your pediatrician or mental health specialist, Dr. Young says. She also suggests being mindful of your own emotions to ensure you don’t inadvertently pass on any extra anxiety to your kids.
You can also support your family’s mental and emotional health by gradually adjusting your children’s bedtime leading up to their first day of school. Start by moving bedtime up 10 minutes earlier each night, helping them adapt to earlier wake-up times. This not only ensures your children get the rest they need for optimal learning and concentration, but also promotes their mental and emotional well-being, setting a positive tone for the academic year ahead.
As we approach the new school year and flu season, your family’s health is a top priority. By embracing and consistently applying these back-to-school health precautions, not only can you protect your loved ones from illnesses, but you can also create an environment of productivity, well-being, and happiness all year long.
The post Back to School Health Precautions: How to Prepare for Flu Season appeared first on Alternative Medicine Magazine.