Knowledgable HealthcareWhen the new school year begins, your kids will be packing plenty of things home with them: forms, handbooks, worksheets… and the most unwelcome reappearance of germs and colds. Even just a few weeks after a new school year begins, you’re likely to see more colds and illnesses. And if your kids are too young to be in school, taking them to daycare or simply out in public brings exposure to a fresh round of germs every fall. While you can’t completely defeat all illness, there are a few tricks you can keep up your sleeve to help you and your family stay healthier this fall.

Be Vigilant about Handwashing

Everybody knows you’re supposed to wash your hands, but it can be a difficult habit to enforce with little kids outside of meal times. Create a new habit of making sure everyone washes their hands as soon as they get home from school or being in a store, and soon it will become second nature. Think antibacterial gel is just as good? It will work in a pinch, but plain old soap and water is best for rinsing away the yuckies.

Get Serious about Sleep

It can be tough getting kids to stick to a bedtime, especially since they are often loaded down with obligations after school like homework, team practices, lessons and last-minute school projects. Come to think of it, it’s also pretty difficult for you to get enough sleep, since you’re the one making sure all their stuff gets done. But skimping on sleep could really backfire and make you all more susceptible to illness. The change in daylight hours is probably making you sleepier, and that’s your body’s way of telling you to get more rest.

Be More Active Outdoors

Fall may be the perfect season to be outdoors thanks to the fact that temperatures are comfortable in most parts of the country. Take advantage of this and spend time in nature, whether you choose to go on family hikes or enjoy sitting around a bonfire. Being outdoors isn’t just fun, it’s actually great for your child’s development and your own health. According to a report by the National Wildlife Federation, exposure to green spaces lowers kids’ stress levels and may even reduce ADHD symptoms. Of course, outdoor play has many other benefits for both kids and adults, like physical fitness and vitamin D exposure.

Protect Yourself Against the Flu

Vaccinations are sometimes controversial, but the flu (influenza, not the so-called “stomach flu”) is not an illness you want to get. It’s easy to forget what it’s like if you haven’t had the flu in years, but catching it will leave you miserable for weeks. Although the statistics vary each year on the effectiveness of that year’s flu vaccine formulation, the CDC does know that flu vaccines reduce the risk of hospitalization due to flu complication for all age groups (by more than 70 percent, according to one study!). That seems like a pretty good reason to say yes to the shot!

Do a Home Safety Check

Experts recommend that you check the safety equipment in your home twice a year, usually at the Daylight Savings Time changes in spring and fall. Now is as good a time as any to go through and test the batteries in your smoke detector, check your carbon monoxide detector (or get one, if you don’t already have one) and make sure you have working fire extinguishers.

With a little bit of effort, you can stay warm, safe and healthier from autumn right on through the winter.