The ABCs of Back to School Health
As summer comes to a close, the hustle and bustle of getting ready for back-to-school begins. In the midst of picking out the perfect backpack, shopping for new clothes and buying school supplies, parents should put safeguarding their children’s health at the top of their to-do-list.
Ideally, school-aged children should have an annual physical exam at the close of summer. However, with busy schedules and squeezing in last minute family trips, this may not have been possible. To ensure health and make certain that they are well enough to play in school sports, parents should make an appointment with their children’s Primary Care Physician as soon as possible.
“During your child’s annual appointment, make sure the physician screens for vision and hearing problems,” advises Jonathan Andersen, DO, Family Medicine Physician at North Attleborough Medical Center. “Children may not complain about difficulties with their vision or hearing as they do not recognize it as a challenge.”
To assist with the transition back to the classroom, parents should work on establishing an early bedtime. “School-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep,” says Dr. Andersen. “Don’t be surprised if your child is tired during the first few weeks back, it’s quite an adjustment.”
Send your children off to school with a full stomach, ideally with a breakfast that has some protein to help with their energy levels. If you are packing their lunch, be aware that they may not eat everything and they may trade some of their nutritious items for something more appealing. Have open discussions with your children to make sure you know what they are eating. Work to educate them on the importance of healthy food choices.
Be mindful that being in the classroom indicates that your child is sitting for a large portion of the day. “Try to encourage physical activity at home whether it be a family bike ride, walk or playing in the backyard,” recommends Dr. Andersen. “Kids need 60 minutes of exercise a day.”
In an effort to reduce sickness, encourage hand washing with soap and water after using the restroom and before all meals. Have your children sing “Happy Birthday” twice, to make sure they are washing long enough. Teach them to cough and sneeze into their elbow to reduce spreading germs.
If your child becomes sick, make sure you know the school’s policy regarding illness and absences and have a backup plan for childcare if you are not home during the day. “If your child catches a cold, a few days of rest should help them feel better,” says Dr. Andersen. “If symptoms worsen or you have questions about their health, call to speak with his or her physician.”