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Healthy Habits for Back to School 
Simple Steps to Keep
Your Kids Healthy This Fall

The changing seasons herald the beginning of school, and often with it a host of kid-related conditions. Here’s some first-line defense to some garden-variety ailments that commonly find children, though they may affect anyone.

Ear Infections
Infected ears can lead to symptoms such as fever, irritability, and sleeplessness. According to research or other evidence, the following steps may help keep your family’s ears clear:

  • Try xylitol: Control mouth bacteria that cause ear infections by chewing gum or eating candy sweetened with xylitol, a natural sugar found in fruit
  • Steer clear of smoke: Stop smoking and avoid all sources of passive cigarette smoke exposure to reduce ear infection recurrences
  • Pass up pacifiers: Reduce ear infection risk in babies by weaning them off pacifiers
  • Uncover food allergies: Work with a knowledgeable health professional to find out if food allergies are causing infections

Pink Eye
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is usually triggered by an infection or allergic reaction. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may help soothe the burn:

  • Try an eyewash: Use an over-the-counter irrigating solution containing boric acid (Collyrium for Fresh Eyes Wash) to alleviate the itching and burning
  • Sidestep irritants: Put away the contact lenses, and avoid windy conditions, smoke, chlorinated pools, and anything else that irritates your eyes
  • See a professional: Visit your healthcare provider or eye-care specialist to find out if your conjunctivitis is caused by a treatable medical condition

Head Lice
Stamp out the scratching and discomfort caused by this common parasite. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may help your family stay free and clear of head lice:

  • Clean it up: Keep head lice under control by thoroughly washing clothing, bedding, and personal hair care items regularly
  • Go herbal: Try a shampoo or lotion containing extracts of quassia, citronella, sugar apple, paw paw, thyme oil and/or tea tree oil to help eliminate head lice
  • Condition and comb: While hair is wet, apply a conditioner and comb through with a fine-tooth comb to remove lice and their eggs

Soothe your eczema irritation. This common skin condition is characterized by dry, itchy skin. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful:

  • Avoid allergens and irritants: Work with a qualified professional to identify airborne allergens, chemicals, foods, and irritants that make your condition worse
  • Use topical hydrocortisone: Over-the-counter corticosteroid products can help control symptoms during flare-ups
  • Take fatty acids: Supply anti-inflammatory fatty acids missing in many people with eczema by taking 500 to 1,000 mg a day of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) from evening primrose oil, or 1,800 mg a day of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) from fish oils; children should take amounts proportionately less according to body weight
  • Help children avoid allergies with beneficial bacteria: Pregnant women and newborns should get probiotic supplements that contain 10 billion colony-forming units a day of lactobacillus-type bacteria to reduce risk of eczema in early life

*These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist.

4 Tips to Start the School Year Out Right

Instill healthy routines in September to help keep your child robust throughout the school year:

  1. Keep moving
    The shift from outdoors to the classroom can mean a big drop in physical activity. Redirect children who head straight for the computer or television once the closing bell rings. Sign your child up for organized sports teams such as soccer or swimming, or after-school activities such as martial arts, gymnastics, dance, or yoga. Make exercise a family affair as well. Walk to your errands and to the park, hike a local trail, take a group bike ride, or work together in the garden.
  2. Salute the sandman
    In addition to its negative effects on overall health, lack of sleep has been found to be a major factor in poor school performance and behavioral problems. Establish a consistent sleep routine for the school year with set bedtimes. Younger children may need to adjust to going to bed earlier, so incrementally move bedtime back by 10 to 15 minutes over the course of the first week of school.
  3. Make the morning meal mandatory
    It's widely held that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies show that children who regularly eat breakfast score better on standardized tests, experience fewer behavioral problems, and are less hyperactive than children who miss breakfast. Serve kids a healthy morning meal of whole-grain cereals, bagels, toast, or pancakes with fruit, cheese, and nut butters. In a time crunch, grab a granola or energy bar on your way out the door.
  4. Lighten the load
    Books, notebooks, calendars, and lunchboxes weigh down your child’s bulging backpack. This burgeoning weight can cause some undue harm to your child’s still-growing body. To minimize the effects, look for a pack with wide padded shoulder straps and a padded back that sits squarely on your child’s back. Make sure your child wears both straps: wearing the pack slung over one shoulder creates misalignment that causes muscle strain. Pack light and place the heaviest objects in the middle of the pack. Rolling backpacks are an option for kids who walk to school or to the bus; however, these can be awkward if your child has a lot of steps to manage.

Copyright © 2009 Aisle7. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Aisle7 content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Aisle7. Healthnotes Newsletter is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Aisle7 shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. AISLE7 is a registered trademark of Aisle7. 

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