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Back to School: Health Checklist from Boots

Boots always has our good health at the forefront of their priorities and so they have enlisted the help of their Pharmacist Angela Chalmers to come up with a Back to School Health Checklist to give you the best chance of a happy, healthy autumn/winter.

Immune health for the cough and cold season

A healthy balanced diet won’t prevent a cold but supporting the immune system may help reduce the risk and duration of infections such as colds and flu. A wide variety of nutrients are associated with supporting the immune defences: vitamins A, C, D, B6, folate, selenium, zinc, iron and copper.

How to help tackle feelings of sluggishness during the autumn term
  • Don’t skip breakfast as it’s an ideal opportunity to fill up on essential vitamins and minerals (nutrients that are unlikely to be made up later in the day). There’s mounting evidence to show the importance of breakfast on performance including attention, problem solving, reading, listening and comprehension in children. Porridge or another oat-based breakfast cereal, rich in slow-release carbohydrates makes a great breakfast.
  • When your energy reserves begin to dwindle don’t turn to sugar or grab a chocolate bar.  Sugary foods release their energy quickly and cause dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels that soon leave you feeling low again. Plan for snack-attacks with a supply of dried fruit, veg sticks, rice cakes and breadsticks.
  • Slow release carbohydrates release their energy slowly and keep you going for longer. Choose wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals especially oats, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, vegetables and fruit to keep your energy levels on an even keel.
  • Are you getting enough vitamin B?  B vitamins are important for the processes that release energy from food. Bread, potatoes, breadfast cereals, bananas, milk, cheese, eggs, red meat, oily fish, green leafy vegetables and yeast extract are all great sources. These vitamins are also found in a good B Complex supplement.
  • Co-enzyme Q10 is needed for the processes that convert energy in food to a form that can be used by the muscles. However ability make CoQ10 decreases with age and a supplement can provide a useful top-up.
  • Water is a great vitality booster. You need around 6 to 8 glasses of water or other fluids every day to keep properly hydrated. Even mild hydration can leave you feeling tired and lethargic.
Shorter days = less sunlight. What should families know about vitamin D
  • Awareness about vitamin D is growing but many parents are confused about when to supplement, safe sun exposure, and good dietary sources of vitamin D. Campaigns highlighting the dangers of excessive sun exposure have failed to remind consumers of the benefits too!
  • The National Diet and Nutrition Survey, demonstrates that up to a quarter of people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood, which means that they are at risk of the clinical consequences of vitamin D deficiency.
  • To help keep your family’s vitamin D levels topped up, ensure you are eating the right foods. Small amounts of vitamin D can be obtained from dietary sources (oily fish, egg yolk, liver and some fortified foods such as infant formula, margarine and breakfast cereals) but 90% of vitamin is obtained from the exposure of skin to UVB sunlight (converting vitamin D to its active form).

You may wish to consider a supplement, particularly if you/your child:

  • Live in the north of the UK at latitudes above 52 degrees north (Birmingham) as this means you are unable to produce sufficient vitamin D from October to March and need to draw upon reserves or rely on supplementation.
  • Children from Asian and African-Caribbean communities living in inner cities and people with dark skin (needs more exposure than fair skin)
  • People who cover their skin or are confined indoors
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