Staying well: School nurse gives tips on keeping students healthy
Published 3:30 pm Thursday, October 6, 2022
Editor’s note: This article initially published in Chilton County Wellness: September 2022. Copies are available at 1109 Seventh Street N in Clanton.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOYANNA LOVE
Staying well is crucial to students having good attendance and being able to do well in school.
Chilton County Schools lead nurse Crysta Russell has some tips for parents looking to help their student avoid getting sick this school year.
“The first thing I tell them is to make sure that they are up-to-date on their immunizations,” Russell said. “Particularly, I would like for them to get a flu shot if they can because it is going to lessen the likelihood that they are going to get the flu, and also it will decrease the strain on the health care that we have had during COVID.”
Flu shot opportunities will be available on campus Nov. 7-8 through the Health Hero Flu Shot Clinic program. Parents should contact their student’s school if interested. (A separate clinic was held for those who are insured through PEEHIP in September and will end in mid-October.)
The school system requires certain immunizations for children just starting school, and those entering sixth grade need to have an immunization against tetanus and diphtheria.
Adequate sleep is also a key to overall health.
Russell, who is based at Clanton Middle School, said this is not always something that is thought about by the students she serves.
“Their bodies are more likely to get an infection if their body starts to have to use that energy elsewhere,” Russell said. “If you are up all night playing on your video games … then of course you are not going to have adequate rest to go to school, especially if you are involved in any kind of athletics or any kind extracurricular activities than you certainly do not want to expend all that energy and not get recuperative sleep after that.”
According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9 to 12 hours of sleep is recommended for school age children younger than 13, and 8 to 10 hours is recommended for teenagers.
Having good personal and dental hygiene habits goes a long way toward keeping students
Frequently washing one’s hands “is the best way … to prevent infection,” Russell said.
Russell said avoiding close contact with someone they know is sick is always recommended to keep from catching anything that might be contagious.
Students are also encouraged to avoid touching their eyes and mouth.
Although cleaning frequently used surfaces was stressed as a pandemic precaution, Russell said this is also a good practice to avoid the spread of other illnesses.
Giving the body a good defense against illness also comes from making healthy food choices. Resources for parents trying to help children have a healthy diet and students wanting to learn more is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture at https://www.myplate.gov/life-stages/kids and https://www. myplate.gov/life-stages/teens.
“You get out of your body what you put in,” Russell said. “If you put in good things, you are going to have a better response. My suggestion would be to have a healthy diet and eat a variety of different foods.”
While older students may be making their own choices about what they eat, Russell said parents can help them make good choices by having a variety of healthy options on hand. While many students have consistent exercise as student athletes, Russell said physical activity is something that is important for all students.
“Our inactivity and our dietary habits and things like that can (lead) to Type II Diabetes,” Russell said. “We are seeing a lot more of that in all children in school, most of that is lifestyle. Not all of it though.”
(Type I Diabetes is insulin dependent and is not triggered by lifestyle choices.)
Stress and anxiety also have a negative impact on one’s overall health. Chilton County Schools has been able to partner to have counselors available to students, and there are counseling companies in Chilton County that do serve children.
Staying healthy helps students avoid missing class and do well in school.