QUESTION: My six-year-old child has been really healthy all summer, but now that he’s heading into first grade, I’m worried that he’ll be around many other children and will be picking up viruses, colds and flu bugs. What can I do to help keep his immune system strong and to avoid germs and viruses at school?
Dr. Raskin: Sadly, summer is nearing a close and with it goes the end of sunny beach days and fun camps and lazy afternoons. And you are right. Most kids don’t get sick during the summer months as we are not cooped up inside and in tight, close quarters where germs can be spread easily.
In addition, most respiratory bugs and flus have a seasonal appearance and increase in the Fall and Winter.
Aside from putting your 6-year-old in a plastic bubble, it is very difficult to avoid the common cold and other bugs that are an almost universal experience of normal childhood.
At this tender age, kids are always touching themselves, other kids and foreign objects around them, such as doorknobs and desks, which are impossible to avoid.
However, I can assure you that if your child has a normal immune system, it is okay to be around these bugs to build antibodies and make his immune system even stronger.
Although it is tough, try training your child to wash their hands as frequently as possible, especially before meals and after going to the bathroom. This is probably the most important thing that you can do to reduce exposure to germs in a school environment.
Also, don’t send your child to school when he or she is sick. They are not going to miss much in the first grade, and you can always teach them long division if they miss that day. That way, other kids won’t be exposed to as many germs and you can set a good example for other parents.
Make sure your child is getting enough rest and staying hydrated. Sleep is vital to a healthy immune system. Eating a well-balanced diet with fruits and vegetables may be a pipe dream, but these healthy habits can also build up the body’s defenses.
Furthermore, follow your pediatrician’s advice about staying up to date with vaccines and routine health maintenance exams for your child.
I am aware there are differences of opinion regarding vaccines in this community, but I am here to tell you that annual flu shots (or nasal spray) are safe and effective in helping prevent the flu.
Teach your kids to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze to help prevent the spread of germs, and this can go a long way. Do not send your child to school with hand sanitizer as they may eat it and it is mostly made of alcohol.
On the other hand, you can always volunteer in your child’s classroom and wipe down the chairs and desks at the end of the day with disinfectant.
In any event, get the Kleenex and the chicken soup ready because school will be starting soon.
Palisadian Damon Raskin, M.D., is a board-certified internist who offers preventative medicine, concierge services and addiction medicine to patients in and around the Palisades. Contact: (310) 459-4333. To submit your medical questions, like or follow us on Facebook.com/PalisadianPost or Twitter.com/PalisadianPost and send a message.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.