How to Keep Your Children Healthy and Safe When They’re First Starting School

The day has come when your little one is going to school for the first time. All the supplies like crayons, pens, and pencils are packed into their brand-new school bag.

The day starts well, with everyone dressed, ready, and out the door with plenty of time to beat the traffic and get to school on time. In all this excitement, the furthest from your mind is your little one’s health on that first day of school.

After all, school is a safe place, right? Well, yes and no. It is a physically safe place for your child, but mixing with other children can bring an assault on their immune system. The new environment brings new germs your child has not been exposed to.

That means their immune system needs to work very hard and often fails to protect them from getting sick.

How Does the Child’s Immune Protect Them from Getting Sick?

An immune system protects children’s health by disabling pathogens that enter their bodies and preventing illnesses from developing. For the immune system to work well, the child usually needs exposure to a pathogen before the immune system “learns” how to weaken the germ effectively.

When a child spends most of their time at home, the immune system gets “used to” the normal germs.

But when the child starts mixing with other children and coming into contact with inanimate objects like new toys, chairs, and desks, the germs that enter their bodies are different from the ones at home, and their immune system gets overwhelmed.

They develop symptoms like runny noses, coughing, and fevers. It is a body’s response to fighting off new pathogens and “learning” how to protect the child from future exposure.

Why Are Children More Prone Than Adults to Getting Sick?

The human immune system needs time to mature, and children under seven still have an immature immune system that cannot support their health like an adult can. A child’s upper airway is still not fully developed, and the mucous membrane barrier in their nose, mouth, and throat cannot protect them from viruses and bacterial infections.

Young children often explore their environment by putting their hands in their mouths, exposing themselves to ingesting germs. Germs are easily transferred from surfaces they touch to their mucous membranes in the nose and mouth by their hands.

How Can Parents Help Make Children More Resilient to Illness Causing Pathogens?

Before they start school, children should be exposed to as many environments as possible. Attending preschool can help them build a more robust immune system before they start school.

Education Week reported that, on average, children who attended preschool missed 1.5 fewer days than those who did not attend. It makes sense that children exposed to mixing with others at preschool get their immune systems to “learn” how to incapacitate more everyday germs.

It may mean that your toddler gets sick more often, but when they reach school age, they stay healthier than children whose first contact with ‘strange’ pathogens is at school.

Another way you can protect your child from getting sick is to make sure that their immunizations are up to date. Vaccines boost their immune system’s resistance and protect them from developing life-threatening diseases.

Don’t Forget About Brushing Up on Oral Care

Having a toothache in class can affect your child’s ability to learn. Remember, seven-year-olds are at that age when permanent teeth replace milk teeth. Take them seriously if they complain of toothache.

Poor oral health will also affect your child’s overall health. If neglected, your child may be sick more often. Shortlister reports that, on average, children miss three days of school due to dental issues. So don’t skip any of those six-monthly dental check-ups.

Starting school for the first time is exciting for your child, and it is normal for them to become sick more often.

It may mean that they miss school and must deal with runny noses and fevers, but over time, their immune systems will get used to coping with new germs, and once they hit second grade, they should be more resilient to pathogens.

In general, it’s important to do whatever it takes to keep your child safe. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that between 2004 and 2013, the number of people prosecuted for commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) crimes nearly doubled.

Ensure you tell your child to stay away from strangers and ensure they are safe!