It’s that time of year again where we exasperatedly ask, ‘Where did the summer go?!’ Labour Day weekend is a memory and school has begun. In our pharmacies, we’ve been having the usual conversations with patients about the new school year...but this year, with COVID-19 still a serious concern, ‘back to school’ preparations carry extra weight for parents and caregivers. No matter how you’re approaching the school year, it’s important to remember that there are many good, preventative actions we can all take to help stay healthy.
On top of having kids return to school, many adults are also heading back to the office after months of working remotely. For that reason, it’s even more important for parents and grandparents to stay on top of their mental and physical health, so as to best care for their families.
Here are some suggestions to help you, your kids and any close family members, prepare for the changes ahead, both physically and mentally.
1. Mental health is of utmost importance. Whether you’re sending your kids to school, or keeping them at home, it’s important to manage their stress levels and fears. Talk with your kids about how they are feeling. By engaging them in conversation, you’ll see if they’re feeling stress or anxiety. It will effectively ‘turn the temperature down’ and make it a better transition for them.
Then, remind kids going back to school that increased exposure doesn’t necessarily mean increased risk, as long as we stay diligent and remember all the good habits we’ve been focusing on the last 5 or 6 months:
o Keep hands away from your face
o Wash hands properly (check out this great video using purple dye) or use hand sanitizer frequently throughout the day
o Stay six feet from others whenever possible
o Practice safe mask wearing etiquette, like washing hands before putting on a mask. Some preliminary studies have shown that a good cloth/cotton mask (2 or 3-ply) is recommended. (If possible, purchase at least 5 reusable masks for each child to get through the school week. There are lots of affordable options – and many with fun patterns so you can help make mask-wearing a little less of a chore.)
2. Remain vigilant and be more careful than during a regular school year. That means doing things to minimize the impact on the rest of your family, like establishing new routines:
o Create a decontamination station at your main entrance where everyone in the household can leave behind their items like shoes, coats and bags, followed by the immediate washing of hands. Have a small bin handy where masks can be removed and disposed of or washed.
o Carefully wipe down your child’s lunchbox every night
o Wash their clothes daily if possible
o Remind your child not to share school supplies or toys with their classmates
o Kids and education workers often get sick in September and that is normal. Be on the lookout for any physical changes like a cough, runny nose, fever, muscle/body aches. This year, be very diligent and investigate everything as though it could be COVID-19.
o Let your child’s school know about their medications or health conditions
o Consider introducing a new activity like taking an evening walk as a family, which offers much better stress relief and health benefits than watching screens.
3. Remember all the regular top health habits that always serve us well and will keep us strong mentally and physically:
o A good night’s sleep
o Healthy, nutritious food
o Plenty of water
o Daily exercise
o Stress reduction through meditation, enjoying nature, doing yoga or participating in another calming activity
o Keep on top of medications, puffers, etc. so that you don’t run out of any prescriptions.
o Regular vaccinations, including the flu shot
Complacency is really our biggest threat. The more we think about something and plan ahead, the better prepared we are and the more comfortable we feel. So, stay on top of your family’s health, and contact your pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Reach out to your pharmacist anytime – we have a wealth of resources that we’re happy to share. At our Hauser’s Pharmacy locations, we love to talk to our patients in person, by web chat, phone call or book a virtual visit.