A girl playing hopscotch in a playground

Five essential back to school health tips

From head lice to bad backs, there’s plenty you can do to keep your child safe all school year.

You may have bought their new school uniform, fought over their shoes, and invested in all those books, but have you covered the most important part about going back to school? Your child’s health.

Get a handle head lice

One in three children will get head lice at some point during the year. They’re spread by head-to-head contact and children often play with their heads close together. Some people mistakenly call head lice ‘nits’ but these are just the empty eggshells.

Catching head lice doesn’t mean your child has dirty hair – the lice have no preference for clean or dirty hair as long as they can get to the scalp quickly, so short hair may make your child more vulnerable. Tying long hair back can help minimise the risk of infection, but it’s a myth that lice prefer long hair.

You can treat head lice with chemical lotions, although lice have become resistant to many types. A more natural alternative is to comb conditioner through your child’s wet hair with a special fine-toothed comb. This removes both the head lice and nits.

Add some tea tree oil to the conditioner; research shows it is more than 90 per cent effective at killing head lice compared with chemical treatments.

Bruising and blisters

You can’t stop your child getting into playground scrapes, but you can help them recover more quickly.

Herbal practitioners often recommend arnica for bumps and bruises – there’s some evidence it can speed up the healing process – while applying a vitamin E cream could help heal the skin, reducing any scarring.

Have they come home with a blister from their new school shoes? It’s not a good idea to pop it, as this can lead to infection, but dabbing on some aloe vera gel can help soothe the blister because it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.

Boost their immune system

Nursery and school kids typically catch between seven and 10 colds a year, so it makes sense to give their immune system a helping hand. A multi-vitamin aimed specifically at children can help plug any ‘gaps’ in their diet.

The Department of Health recommends all children from six months to five years old are given supplements which contain vitamins A, C and D, so giving them some vitamin D with their breakfast can help overcome the dark winter days, boosting their immunity.

Beat bad backs

Around 25 per cent of school children suffer from back pain caused by heavy school bags. Obviously, the more school work they have, the bulkier their bag will be, but how they carry it can make a big difference.

Physiotherapists advise using a backpack, worn on both shoulders to distribute the weight evenly. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder, or carrying a heavy bag in the crook of the arm, places extra strain on the spine. Also check if they have to carry everything – can they leave anything at school instead?

Sort their sleep

Research shows our children are suffering from a sleep epidemic caused by electronic devices. Studies have found not only do children using smartphones, tablets or computers before bed go to sleep much later, they also have difficulty sleeping, sleep for fewer hours, and feel much more tired during the day.

Shorter sleep patterns have been linked to an increased risk of illness in teens, such as flu or stomach bugs, so encourage your kids to stop playing any games or log off social media a few hours before bed. And any texting under the duvet is strictly forbidden!

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