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Be sure to familiarise yourself with guidelines around when you should keep your child at home or send them to school. Picture: Stock, posed by model
Be sure to familiarise yourself with guidelines around when you should keep your child at home or send them to school. Picture: Stock, posed by model
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Eimear Hutchinson: How to help keep your children healthy in the months ahead

WE are all in the throes of back to school this week, the uniforms are sorted, the books are covered and everything apart from the child’s forehead is labelled!

Once the dust settles on this new return to school and you’ve managed to grab a coffee in some relative peace, here is something else that we will probably have to start contending with in a few weeks — our children’s immunity.

After spending the last almost six months hidden away, most of us have escaped the usual tummy bugs and mysterious bouts of vomiting and high temperature generally attributed to a ‘viral infection’ so it will be interesting to see how the winter months transpire.

Firstly, it’s important to be familiar with the guidelines around when you should keep your child at home from school, and thankfully a simple runny nose isn’t on the list (which is just as well because I don’t think my children would darken the door of the school if that was the case).

You should not send your child to school this year if they have a temperature over 38 degrees, if they develop a cough, shortness of breath or a experience a changed sense of taste or smell. It goes without saying that they should not be sent to school if they come in close contact with someone who tests positive with the coronavirus — even if they are living with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus and hasn’t yet been tested, they should not attend school.

It is probably inevitable that children are going to come down with things this winter, but it should be less likely that they pick up something in school given the measures that are being put in place to protect children from each other. That said, it is no harm setting good practises at home to boost their immunity.

The two most important elements of building a good immune system are this — a balanced diet and a lot of sleep. Sounds simple, but simple rarely applies when you have children.

Children are going to be more tired than ever this September, given how out of routine they are. If my home schooling skills are anything to go by, it’s safe to say my children haven’t been overly challenged academically over the last few months. Many, if not most, children have a lot of catching up to do, so suffice to say they will be tired by the end of the day.

Never underestimate the importance of a good bedtime routine, regardless of your child’s age, I still have one so you’re never too old for one. It is more important than ever to give children time to wind down and process the day, especially for the first few weeks and months. There will be lots of changes in school so we shouldn’t underestimate the mental headspace it takes to process all this.

I’m sure as adults we have lost sleep over the long emails telling us which entry to use for each class and all the rest of it.

I think, to talk about a balanced diet, I would need a lot more space than just a paragraph. And there are fussy eaters to contend with and that’s not something to tackle this winter with all that is going on. That said, the power of a well rounded, healthy diet is not something to ignore, it impacts on a child’s mood, energy levels and ability to concentrate so it is important.

If you’re child has a well balanced diet then I’m not here to push multivitamins or probiotics. The only suggestion I would make in terms of supplementing their diet is to look and see if they have enough Vitamin D. This is notoriously hard to get in a country like Ireland, especially this year when it’s beginning to feel like the winter started just after the August Bank Holiday weekend.

You can get food and milks fortified with Vitamin D and there are numerous brands on the market selling supplements in different formats. What’s worth keeping an eye on is the percentage NRV (Nutrient Reference Value), look for supplements where the Vitamin D is relatively close to 100% for the best results.

The flu vaccine is being made available free of charge this winter for children aged between two and 12. I have had the flu vaccine most winters, but more so since I’ve been home minding the girls. I have no boss to ring in sick to and my husband would have to take holiday time off work to mind myself and the girls.

And aside from that, its not just about me, as with every vaccine it’s about ‘not getting and not giving’, we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society especially this winter when we all have enough to contend with.

Eimear Hutchinson looks at ways in which we can mind our children’s immune systems this winter

It is probably inevitable that children are going to come down with things this winter, but it should be less likely that they pick up something in school given the measures that are being put in place.