While the calendar may say there are a few more weeks of summer, the school calendar says it's over. After a hot break, it's time to gear up and head back to school. But, are your kids ready?
Physicians agree there is more to prepping for school than new backpacks and notebooks. While many parents help their students prepare for the start of a new year with school supplies, they often forget to review their child's health record.
So, how can your student start off a healthy school year?
1. Make sure your child has had a recent physical.
Now is a great time to make sure your child is healthy and developing on schedule. Your pediatrician or family physician can also share with you the symptoms to be on the lookout for with any new ailments that may be circulating. Also, this is a good time to be sure you notify the school and classroom teacher of any chronic illnesses, such as asthma, and treatment plans should an attack occur.
2. Make sure your child's vaccinations are up to date.
Today, many schools can deny enrollment if a student is not current with vaccinations. Your pediatrician or your school system can provide you with the requirements to be sure your student is ready to go on the first day of school.
3. Schedule an eye exam.
After taking a long break from the blackboard, it is common for changes in vision to go unnoticed. Scheduling annual eye exams before school begins ensures that your student will be able to see the blackboard from any desk in the room.
4. Check for bugs.
With various camps, play dates and summertime activities it is easy for kids to share their bugs. Do a thorough scalp exam to be sure they have not contracted head lice. Lice are usually a brownish color and the nymphs are clear to reddish brown. If you child has extra visitors, there are several treatment options available at local pharmacies and retailers. Frequent hair washing can help to prevent the spreading of lice.
5. Have a sick-day game plan.
We have all been there. Your child is sick in the morning, can't go to school and you have to be at work. What do you do? Having a game plan ready for when the situation arises helps to ensure your child gets the care they need and you can take care of your responsibilities too. Also, have a plan as to who can be available to pick them up from school, should they get sick during the day. Preparation can help make a yucky day a little easier to swallow.
6. Get back to a regular sleep schedule.
During the summer, it's easy to let the kids stay up late and sleep in. But, when school begins it becomes a hard habit to break, leaving them tired and sleepy in class. Start slowly. Send them to bed 15 minutes earlier for a few nights and work your way back to their "school" bedtime. Also, try having them wake up earlier and getting ready for the day now like they do when they are in school. This will help make mornings easier when the middle of August rolls around.
7. Teach proper hand hygiene.
Germs are everywhere and they can lead to a variety of illnesses. Teaching your child proper hand hygiene helps to lessen their exposure to the viruses around them. Warm water and an antibacterial soap, when used properly, can fight off many infections. We should lather and scrub all of our fingers and in between, around the finger nails and the front and backs of our hands before rinsing in warm water.
8. Stock up on healthy options for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
Avoid the sweetened beverages. Offer water or low-fat milk instead for a healthier option. Making healthy alternatives readily available makes choosing the right snack easy. Fresh fruits and vegetables that are washed and ready to eat help teach kids how to make wise food choices for themselves. A snack should have less than 2 grams of fat, less than 10 grams of sugar and no trans fats per serving.
9. Find the appropriate backpack.
The wrong backpack can cause back pain. Look for backpacks that have multiple compartments and then place the heaviest items closest to the body to avoid extra pulling on the straps. Backpacks should have two straps and students should always use both to carry the pack. Parents can also help decrease their child's back pain by encouraging core strengthening exercises to build muscle strength.
10. Talk with your child about the start of school.
Starting school can be an anxious time for some, especially younger students or those transitioning from one school to another. Talk with them. Listen. Allow them to share their concerns with you. After they have expressed their fears, offer advice or tips to make the start of the year an exciting one. Often, children just want to know they have been heard and have your support.
Dr. Lalitha Valluri is a Pediatrician at Putnam Pediatrics and Internal Medicine inside of Putnam County Hospital with Dr. Lisa Martin. She joined the practice last December and is currently accepting pediatric patients. You can contact the office at 658-2700.