Back-to-School Health Overview
Getting your kids ready to start the school year involves
more than finding the perfect backpack, buying school supplies, and shopping
for new clothes. It means safeguarding their health so they'll be physically
ready for the challenges of heading back to school. Consider these tips for a
healthy start for your child's new school year.
Wash Hands, Sing a Song
According to Mayo Clinic, the most effective way to avoid
spreading or catching germs is to encourage hand washing. To make sure kids
have spent enough time on this healthful task, ask them to sing the alphabet
song or "Happy Birthday to You" from start to finish as they wash the
fronts and backs of their hands and in between fingers. Simple soap and water
is best, but hand sanitizers will do when those aren't available. Remind your
children to always cough or sneeze into the crooks of their elbows or into
Don't Forget the Shots
Make sure your child's immunizations are up to date. According
to the CDC, every state requires certain
vaccinations at different grade levels for children attending public
school. Some schools will not allow students to attend without verification of
these immunizations. Flu vaccines are also recommended for all school-age
children, unless the child has an allergy to the vaccine or a health problem
that will cause complications from the vaccine.
Schedule a Checkup
An annual physical exam will ensure your child is healthy and
virus-free before going back to class. In many school districts, a physical is
required for those students who want to participate in school sports such as
football. Some states require a vision exam for students entering kindergarten.
At least a week before classes start, shift your kids from
summer carefree sleep hours to bedtime schedules more in line with the school
year. It's time they cut back on playing computer games and watching television.
Help your child with this transition by encouraging reading or playing quiet
games an hour before going to bed.
Power Up With Good Nutrition
Childhood obesity continues to rise and with it a greater health
risk to those affected. According to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA), you can buck this trend, providing healthy meal
options for your kids. This includes breakfast. Students who eat breakfast
versus those who don't are more alert during class. Plus, the right
foods combined with adequate rest will help their bodies fight off
Check for Head Lice
Notice any excessive head scratching? Stress the importance to
your child of not sharing combs, hats, and clothes, and send your child's
pillow on a sleepover. Do a visual head check at least once a week,
particularly for younger children. This time of year, it's a good idea also to
do a body check looking for ticks.
Be Aware of Allergens
A new school year coincides with a new allergy season. Children
who suffer from allergies get a triple whammy in school where dust mites, mold,
and other allergens may flourish in the classroom. For some kids, it means a
runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes. For others, these allergens
can trigger asthma or lead indirectly to sinus infections. Also,
eating in the cafeteria can present a number of problems for those suffering
with food allergies. Discuss any allergy concerns with your child's school
nurse as soon as possible at the start of the school year.