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Student Health & Safety During COVID-19

1956-0289 FH SM Aug Back To School AR

After being out of the classroom since mid-March, students in Frederick County are preparing to ease into a virtual model of learning this fall. Even though local students won’t be back in their school’s hallways until at least October, it’s still important to set them up for a healthy, successful semester online.

In late July, FCPS decided to hold virtual instruction only for students during the first semester of the 2020-21 school year, beginning Monday, August 31. FCPS originally intended to hold a hybrid model of classes—both virtual and in-person—but amended their plans due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before prepping your kids for successful days of virtual learning, make sure your child is taking all the right precautions to stay safe and healthy.

Hygiene for Kids

Even though your child won’t be back in the classroom yet, it’s essential to make sure they know how to practice hygiene so they can stay healthy. This is especially important if your home-learning plans include going into public, like checking out books from the library or taking a walk in the park. Here are some useful hygiene tips to discuss with your child:

  • Wash your hands. Stress the importance of frequent hand washing. Your child should wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating, before touching their face, after touching any public surface, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose. Share with your child the five simple steps of handwashing—wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry—and remind them to use hand sanitizer if they don’t have immediate access to soap and water.
  • Wear a face mask properly. Not only are face coverings essential to prevent the spread of the virus, but it’s also especially important to make sure your child knows how to wear their mask correctly. Masks should be worn over the nose and mouth to protect others from germs spread through coughing, sneezing, and talking. Children over 2 should always wear a mask in public.
  • Don’t touch your face. Public surfaces are filled with germs—from door handles to library books, to public restrooms and grocery store carts. Germs can be transferred to your child if they touch their face, mouth, eyes, or nose after touching a public surface.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. Now more than ever, it’s crucial for anyone to stay home if they’re feeling sick. One sick person in public can easily infect dozens of others. Let your child know that they should feel comfortable coming to you if they feel sick, and explain to them that going into public while feeling unwell could make other people very ill. This is especially important if your child goes to daycare or a non-household member’s house during the day. Frederick Health is here with exceptional care when you or your family needs it. If your child complains of common issues like an ear infection, sore throat, or sinus problems, our Ear, Nose & Throat team is now accepting new patients in Frederick.

Boost Their Immune System

What can else can you do to protect your child from the germs they face every day? Check out these healthy habits you can encourage to help boost your child’s immune system:

  • Eat healthily. Strawberries, green beans, carrots, and oranges all contain carotenoids, which boost the immune system. Encourage your child to eat at least five servings of fruit and veggies per day—try to have these tasty items on hand in your fridge or in an easily-accessible bowl on your counter.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation reduces killer cells, which are natural immune system weapons that attack microbes. Make sure your child gets the appropriate amount of sleep for their age. Even if they don’t have to wake up extra early to catch the bus this semester, it’s important to make sure your child has a regular sleep schedule during the school year. Having a regular sleep schedule when learning from home will set them up for success when in-person classes return.
  • Get active. Regular exercise boosts the number of killer cells and can help you fight off illness. Encourage your child to develop fitness habits by exercising with them, instead of just sending them outdoors to play.
  • Prevent germs. Reduce stress on your child’s immune system by encouraging frequent handwashing. Disinfect high-touch areas like counters, door handles, light switches, and tables with disposable wipes or disinfectant spray.
  • Say no to smoking. Kids are even more susceptible to secondhand smoke than adults. Secondhand smoke increases children’s risk of many health issues like bronchitis, ear infections, and asthma.
  • Only use antibiotics when necessary. Don’t pressure your doctor to give your child antibiotics when your child only has a cold or sore throat. Antibiotics only treat illnesses caused by bacteria, and viruses cause most childhood illnesses. Antibiotics can be helpful when needed, but when they’re taken unnecessarily, they can diminish good bacteria and potentially cause antibiotic resistance.

Resetting Your Child’s Sleep Schedule

If their school routine has changed, it’s likely your child’s sleep routine has changed too. Between virtual learning and summer break, your child may not have had a regular bedtime schedule since schools closed in March. Here are some useful tips for getting your child’s sleep schedule back on track, so they’re rested and ready to learn from home:

  • Gradually adjust bedtimes and stick to them. A week or two before online classes start, begin adjusting your child’s bedtime. Make it five to 15 minutes earlier each night until you’ve reached their ideal bedtime for the school year. This gradual change is more effective than making a sudden change a day or two before classes start.
  • Establish nighttime “wind-down” rituals. Plan on spending 30 minutes to an hour on your child’s bedtime routine, which may include activities like taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading a book, or listening to soothing music.
  • Set a “screen bedtime.” The light emitted from electronic devices keeps you awake by delaying your body’s internal clock and suppressing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Melatonin levels can be reduced by 22 percent if your child spends two hours using technology before bedtime. Help ensure restful sleep by setting a “screen bedtime” an hour or two before your child’s actual bedtime, where all technology must be turned off. Keep phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices in a common area of the house away from bedrooms overnight.
  • Get active. The more active your child is during the day, the more likely they’ll fall asleep faster and get better sleep. Encourage your child to play hard. Play in the backyard, at the local park, or have some family fun by walking or biking together.
  • Get organized. Don’t set yourself up for a crazy morning. Prepare for a successful day of virtual learning the night before—together, finish all homework, prep a healthy lunch, and make sure their laptop or tablet is charged.

For a great start to the school year, schedule an appointment today with your child’s primary care provider. We’re here for you and your family with the same quality of care you deserve—because we want you healthy, Frederick!