Every year, I put together a back-to-school protocol to help children and their families succeed with the exciting, yet always stressful, health challenge that returning to school presents. From summer with lots of time outside, few demands, and small social circles, children transition to lots of indoor time, many demands, and close contact with often hundreds of new humans. They typically contract colds, sore throats, sinus infections, and stomach bugs quite frequently during the first 60 days of school. They also bring those germs home to their parents and grandparents.

This year, we’re on the far side of a global pandemic, with nostalgia for the old days and trepidation about the new. Young and old have learned much about health, community, and global connectedness. We have vaccines that work astonishingly well, and it’s clear that masks, handwashing, and social distancing reduce the spread of communicable diseases of all sorts. While most kids are unlikely to continue to wear masks to school, it’s my hope that some of the hygiene habits developed in the past year will carry on.

In addition, strong immune support is a must in making going back to school successful for children, parents, and grandparents alike. Some things are familiar, such as good sleep and a daily breakfast. Here are a few more of my favorites:

Hydration. Make sure everyone in the house hydrates well when school begins. Proper hydration keeps the mucus membranes of the nose and throat moist and resistant to germs. Plain water is best. Aim for one-half ounce per pound of body weight per day.

Immunity botanicals. Elder, echinacea, chamomile, and licorice root are great immune tonics. Tonics are given in small doses to gently boost the immune system. These four herbs are safe, nutritious, and well-tolerated by most people. You can pick one and use it repeatedly, or vary all of them. Add them to a cup of tea in the evening before bed, or use tinctures or syrup. Follow the manufacturer’s dose based on age and size.

Rescue remedy. Bach Flower Remedy is a distillation of tree-flower essences. It is unscented and very diluted. In my household, we use it before stressful events such as a new day at school, a performance, a meeting, or a trip to the doctor. The typical dose is two drops on the tongue.

Encourage balance and creativity. Kids—and adults—need regular opportunities to let their feelings out. Music, dance, art, writing, or simple conversations are tools to do so, and they nourish our emotional immune health, too.

I’m wishing you well.

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