By: Dr. Jennifer November

It’s that time of year again… packing lunches, laying out clothes, homework, and working extra hard to keep the whole family healthy.  How can you combat the increased colds and flus that come with the start of the school year?  And, give your kids a running start to stay healthy in the coming months?  The following are our top four tips for keeping your family’s health in top shape:

  • Wash your hands: This cannot be emphasized enough!  Particularly before anything goes into your mouth, wash your hands.  Kids and adults alike, are in contact with toys, money, doorknobs, pens, etc. constantly throughout the day, passing along viruses and bacteria.  Make a habit of hand washing frequently throughout the day and especially before eating. If hand washing is difficult, pack a travel-sized hand sanitizer to use in a pinch.
  • Make sure you are getting adequate sleep: Like hand washing, good sleep is imperative to a healthy immune system.  Not only good sleep, but enough of it. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7-11 hours of sleep per night depending on your age (ages 6-13 need 9-11 hours; ages 14-17 need 8-10 hours; ages 18+ need 7-9 hours).  The period of sleep is the time your body uses to recharge and regenerate, including allowing your immune system to kick in full force without having to contend with the other activities of the day.
  • Start the day off with a nutritious breakfast:  A combination of protein (such as eggs, beans yogurt, nuts), healthy fats (such as avocado, nuts, olive oil), veggies and fruits (greens, berries, citrus), are a stellar way to start the day.  By getting essential nutrients into your system each day, your immune system is empowered to be its finest, which means fighting off the Fall germs. And, not only does breakfast kickstart your metabolism, but it keeps energy and focus flowing through the morning.
  • Teach kids to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze: The official current recommendation of the CDC is to “use your cough pocket” — the crease created when you bend your elbow — to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.  This shields the flow of respiratory germ spread created when either using your hand to cover your mouth or not covering at all.  Make a game or song of it, to help your kids remember!

Obviously, nothing listed here is “rocket science” but sometimes we need a little reminder of why this is all important to our health. And, when the above just isn’t cutting it and the family is feeling a bit run down, adding in elderberry, echinacea, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C can help.  Visit dosing recommendations on the package of any given supplement, or better yet, make an appointment with your doctor to talk through specific recommendations for your family.