Friday, October 07, 2011

Staying Healthy in the Fall by Victoria McEvoy, M.D., Contributing Blogger

By now all the children are back at school. Unfortunately, the viruses are back too!

Not that the viruses ever went away, but warm weather and outdoor play leads to fewer viral infections over the summer. Cool temperatures (many respiratory viruses do better in cool temperatures) and closer contact between children cause the cough, sneeze, vomit, fever cycles to gear up again.

What can you do to ensure your child’s health during the Fall?

As always, good hand washing is essential. While some of the hand sanitizers do not actually kill some of the viruses, good hygiene certainly cuts down on infection.

Be sure your child gets enough sleep. Inadequate sleep lowers the immune system’s resistance to infection. Children vary in the number of hours of sleep they require, but parents usually know what their children require. The “whining index” is one measure.

Stress also can lower resistance to infection. Having a stable, predictable schedule without too many activities allows your child to settle into the post-summer routine. Try to shield your child from some of the stresses that you may be feeling as a parent- there is plenty of time for them to experience their own adult dramas later.

A good diet with all the essential food groups will also help the immune system to do its job. If you don’t buy junk food and only offer healthy choices, your child will eventually get hungry enough to eat the foods you offer. If they know that they can hold out for goldfish, then they will!

If your child is ill, keep him home even if you know he got his illness at school or day care. Have a back-up plan for school sick days if you both work because there will be many days when your child will be better off at home.

And, don’t forget to have your child get a flu shot!

So have a good healthy start to the school year and enjoy the remaining warm days.

Dr. McEvoy is the author of “The 24/7 Baby Doctor: a Harvard Pediatrician Answers All Your 
 Questions From Birth to One Year.” 

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