A nurse’s tips on keeping kids healthy.
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09/10/12 Healthy Habits for a New School Year
A nurse’s tips on keeping kids healthy 
September 10, 2012 — Parents sending kids to school this fall can promote healthy living by following a few pieces of advice from Susan Stevenson, Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority public health nurse. 
“Keeping hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent transmission of disease,” Stevenson said.
Handwashing with soap and water should last for a minimum of 20 seconds. This is roughly the same amount of time it takes to sing the “ABC” song. Stevenson also recommends teaching children to sneeze and cough into their shirtsleeves instead of their hands.
“The technique of sneezing into a sleeve or elbow is something a lot of parents haven’t been exposed to and, as a result, haven’t demonstrated to children,” Stevenson said. “The fact is, coughing or sneezing into your hands without a tissue contributes more to spreading germs than coughing into the fabric of your shirt.”
Another public health concern that always pops up during the school year is head lice.
“Schools are great places for lice to spread. Kids share items that have been on their heads or in their hair,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson recommends encouraging children to avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact when playing or during other activities like sports or sleepover parties. Discourage the sharing of clothes like hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms and hair accessories, combs or brushes.
“Treatments for head lice are available over the counter or by prescription from your doctor,” Stevenson said. “It’s important that a health professional confirms the presence of lice before starting treatments.”
Lice aren’t known to carry disease however they do make people scratch their head. Excessive scratching can lead to skin infections. Visit http://is.gd/manitobahealth_publichealth and click on “H” for head lice to read more on prevention and control.
Parents often hear that regular exercise is a good thing for children. The most recent Youth Health Survey (2009) conducted in the Interlake region indicates that of children in grades 6 to 12, just over half (54%) participate in the recommended amount of daily physical activity. In the area that encompasses eastern Manitoba from Lake Winnipeg to the Ontario border, the 2007 Youth Health Survey identified that children’s physical activity amounts steadily declined from 67 per cent of children active in Grade 6 to 38 per cent active in Grade 12.
Youth and teens should spend an hour every day doing moderate to intense physical activities like skating or bike riding. Exercise time should include vigorous-intense activities like running and activities that strengthen muscle and bones. The more physically active children are, the greater the health benefits they experience. Exercise can help kids do better in school and establish strong social networks.
Lastly, according to Stevenson, one of the most important things people can do to protect the health of their children is keep them up to date on their immunizations.
“Parents need to ensure their child has all of the preschool immunizations they require. Now is the time to contact your public health nurse to see if your child is up to date,” Stevenson said.
Public health nurses are in schools immunizing children in Grade 4, girls in Grade 6 and students in Grade 8. Information on vaccination programs is sent home to parents prior to vaccinations being administered.
Teaching kids good health habits goes a long way to keeping families healthy. Following these simple tips will help ensure a healthy school year for children and you.
Contact your local public health nurse for more information on back to school topics and immunizations. Call 1-888-488-2299 for the public health nurse nearest to you.

For more information, contact:
Lauralou Cicierski, manager of public relations and communications
Interlake-Eastern RHA, 204.467.4747, lcicierski@irha.mb.ca

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