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Tips to help protect your child’s immune system as school starts up across the Ozarks

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - School is starting back up across the Ozarks, and local school nurses and doctors have tips on how to help protect your child’s immune system as they head back to the classroom.

Some students may already have a COVID-19 vaccine, while others might not yet be eligible. Health professionals say there are all sorts of things you can do to help your kids stay healthy. It may even start with adding something to your morning routine.

“Check with your child every morning before you send them off to school,” said Jean Grabeel, the Health Services Director at Springfield Public Schools. “Are they feeling okay? If they have any symptoms, then they need to be staying home and checking with their provider.”

Making sure they feel okay is a great start. On top of that, there are several healthy practices each day.

“One is setting some sleep time, and establishing those sleeping routines again,” Grabeel said. “So they have plenty of rest before they return.”

Healthy diets, outdoor activity and exercise are also important.

“Being outside and being active helps our immune system work better,” said Dr. Kayce Morton with Jordan Valley Community Health Center. “We also get a little bit of vitamin D from the sun. It’s important for them to eat well, to get the appropriate nutrients that they need to feed their body. You know, lots of vitamin C, and zinc and vitamin D. Those are all things that help us fight infections and keep our bodies healthy.”

If your child cannot get a COVID-19 vaccine yet, Morton said it is important to remember those other shots.

“Getting your regular vaccinations is just as important to your health as anything else,” she said. “If we were to have outbreaks in other areas, such as measles or influenza, then they know they’re going to have to fight that infection, and potentially fight COVID. So until we can protect them fully from COVID, we need to make sure they’re up to date on all their immunizations. We have a lot of kids behind on immunizations.”

Some schools, like Springfield Public Schools, have mask policies in place to start off the school year.

“Just like last year, make sure that they’re aware about keeping their mask on and being safe if they’re not vaccinated,” said Morton. “And also washing their hands, making sure especially to keep their distance in large crowds.”

While some districts do not have mask requirements, Morton said she still encourages parents to wear them, even if they are vaccinated. She said it serves as an extra caution.

“Even though the schools may make it optional, if they’re not vaccinated, they are at risk,” she said. “And they should be masking.”

With full FDA approval, health professionals hope child vaccination rates will keep going up.

“I’ve talked to a number of parents who have talked to me about vaccines and their hesitancy with these vaccinations,” Grabeel said. “And they’ve said, you know, ‘we just want to wait until the FDA gives full approval.’ And so I would expect that we would see those numbers of those participating in vaccine clinics to increase.”

Grabeel said keeping kids healthy also involves mental health.

“It’s great to talk to your parents about it or a trusted adult that you have,” she said. “And, you know, oftentimes, children know they can trust the school nurse. So they may be coming in with complaints of a stomachache, but it may be related to just some anxiety about school. So having a positive person that they can talk to is great.”

She said it is important to let children know they can be open about their feelings and anxiety.

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