Columbia doctor gives tips to help kids stay healthy at school

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COLUMBIA - Every parent knows the first day of school requires weeks of preparation. Buying textbooks, signing up for soccer practice, it is all part of the end-of-the-summer routine. But one often overlooked back-to-school preparation, is immune system health.

Dr. Rubab Hasan Naqvi, from the Boone Medical Group in Columbia, said the most effective way to prevent sickness is in your own hands...literally. She said hand washing is one of the only methods of illness prevention that has actually been scientifically proven to work.

"Teaching your children the proper way to wash their hands is the best way to prevent them from getting sick," Naqvi said. "You need to wash your hands for a full 15 seconds every time, and pay particular attention to the fingernails, between the fingers, and always wash your wrists as well."

Dr. Naqvi said she warns her patients about products or supplements that state they will prevent one from getting sick.

"There's no scientific evidence that those vitamins, or minerals or herbs will help prevent you from getting sick," Naqvi said.

Though good hygiene is the only way to truly prevent oneself from getting sick, Naqvi said diet, water intake and amount of sleep all play a role in a person's ability to recover.

She said people should think of their immune system as a group of soldiers, and colds or viruses as "an enemy."

"When you talk about your immune system, it's definitely linked to your general health," Dr. Naqvi said. "When you're healthy, well-rested and you've eaten well, you'll be able to make the best ‘soldiers' you have to fight the illness."

Naqvi said good nutrition cannot prevent the enemy from attacking, but it can give the body the necessary fuel to fight the illness quicker.

"Imagine two people both get the same infection," Naqvi said. "If one of those people is in the best of his health, he may have the symptoms for about a week. But let's say the other person was already sleep-deprived, and not very healthy when he got the infection. He could have symptoms for maybe two weeks."

Naqvi said it is important for kids to start practicing good nutritional habits before school starts, where they will encounter many more germs than they do at home.

"Eating good, and drinking lots of water, doing these kind of things will make sure that if you get sick, your body will have more energy to fight it off," Naqvi said.