How to keep the kids healthy at school: Head lice and packed lunch advice

by My Kent Family reporter

September is always a busy month for parents and youngsters. After weeks of enjoying the unstructured freedom of the summer holidays, it's time to get back into the swing of the new school year.

While you'll likely have already organised new school shoes, fresh exercise books and replenished pencil cases, there are some additional things you can do ahead of the first day back, to help keep common classroom health issues at bay.

Here are six back-to-school health tips to keep in mind...

Happy children are always healthy children
Happy children are always healthy children

1. Check for head lice

According to research, around a third of UK primary school children contract head lice at one point or another, so make sure you thoroughly check your child's hair before they go back to the classroom, to stop an unwanted outbreak on the playground.

Use a fine-toothed comb to part the hair and then shine a bright light onto their scalp. If your child is unlucky enough to have caught lice over the summer break, you'll notice small, sesame seed-sized insects moving around, or nits - the lice egg cases - attached to individual hairs.

Even if your little ones are currently lice-free, it's worth keeping an eye on any excessive head scratching during term time and implementing weekly comb checks to make sure they haven't picked them up.

When was the last time you checked for head lice?
When was the last time you checked for head lice?

2. Overhaul packed lunches

When children go back back to school, it can be easy to get wrapped up in chaos of daily routines and forget about basic things like nutrition. September is a really good time to change bad habits and nix the crisps, fizzy drinks and chocolate bars from packed lunches (there's nothing to say those things can't be enjoyed as treats - just not on a daily basis).

Swap sweets for dried fruit, include a serving of crunchy vegetables, plump for wholemeal bread for sarnies and if your child doesn't like the taste of plain water, swap sugary drinks for homemade, fruit-infused H20.

If you're struggling for ideas, there are lots of Instagram accounts with healthy lunches to copy, like @kidlunchbox and @weelicious.

Pack their lunch with healthy ingredients
Pack their lunch with healthy ingredients

3. Get into a good hand-washing habit

Flu viruses can survive for up to 24 hours on hard surfaces, and one of the number one ways to fight the spread of germs and prevent sickness in September and beyond is for everyone in the family to practice good hygiene. Make sure kids learn to wash their hands after going to the loo with warm, soapy water for long enough to sing the 'happy birthday' song in their head.

4. Book in for an eye test

Most of what your child learns at school is through vision, so make sure they're not squinting or struggling to see the blackboard. Eyesight usually keeps on developing up until the age of seven or eight, so it's good to get into the habit of getting a check-up every September - although the optician will let you know if you need to visit more frequently.

Hand washing is key to keeping your children healthy this autumn
Hand washing is key to keeping your children healthy this autumn

5. Vaccinate

Ahead of the new school term, check with your GP surgery that your child is up to date on all of their jabs. From flu shots and HPV vaccines to three-in-one tetanus, diphtheria and polio boosters, your GP can let you know what jabs your child is eligible for, according to their age.

6. Bolster their immunity

Another great way to help ward off coughs and colds in the classroom? Give kid's immune system a helping hand by making sure they're getting their five-a-day of fruits and vegetables, as part of an overall balanced diet, and over eight hours of sleep a night. It's a good idea to also help keep stress levels down by providing a suitable and calm environment for any homework tasks, and plenty of free time to switch off afterwards.

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