Pediatrician Dr. Irina Smith shares how to start the school year in good health
Another summer sailed by, and back to school came and went! We reluctantly said goodbye to the long, lazy days of summer and set the alarm clocks for the school year’s early mornings.
Unfortunately, back to school often means exposure to all sorts of germs for kids, teachers, parents and grandparents. Many kids find themselves catching colds and feeling run down at the start of the new school year.
Medical Exams and Vaccinations
Since your child will be exposed to all sorts of new germs and viruses, it is important to make sure they are up to date on medical exams, vaccines and medications at the start of each school year.
While most schools make sure children have their annual physicals and updated vaccines, it is also important to remember to test your child’s eyes and ears each school year to ensure they are able to thrive in their new classroom. Additionally, children six months and up should receive the flu vaccine each year.
Your child should have the following at the beginning of each school year:
- Annual physical
- Sports physical (for athletes)
- Immunizations if applicable
- Eye exam
- Hearing test
- Flu vaccine
Remember to stock up on any special medications your child may need, and ensure there is enough for school and home.
Questions about what vaccinations your child should receive? Click here for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended immunization schedule.
Rest and Routine
Rest and routine are important to your child as they adapt to their school routine. You can help your child adjust by easing into the school year schedule with a consistent bedtime and meal times. Remember, school age children need nine to 12 hours of sleep each night. Your child may also need a nap or quiet time after school for the first few weeks to help him adjust.
Click here for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended hours of sleep.
Encourage a Healthy Diet
As parents, we can pack our kids a healthy lunch, but can’t really ensure they will eat it once the school bell rings. Don’t stress out too much if your child’s nerves are sending him home with an untouched lunchbox. You can help fuel your child for the school day with protein, such as eggs or Greek yogurt, for breakfast. Also, now is a good time to remind your child not to trade the carrot sticks for cream puffs!
Give a Hygiene Crash Course
- Are they washing their hands after using the restroom and before meals?
- Keep hand sanitizer in their backpack or desk and remind them to use it when they are not able to wash their hands.
- Are they covering coughs and sneezes with their elbows?
- Do they know to keep their hands away from their mouths and eyes? This is how germs spread.
- Remind them not to share water bottles or anything else that goes in their mouths!
Have a Sick Day Plan
Nothing spreads sickness faster than sending your kids to school when they’re sick. Keep them home if they’re sick so they can rest and recover, and keep the sick germs to themselves. It’s important to have a plan for back up childcare if you are not available to care for your children on unexpected sick days.
Work in Some Exercise
Often times, kids do not get the exercise they need during the school day, and can spend gym class waiting for their turn to swing the bat. Be sure that your child is active 60 minutes each day. You can help make physical activity fun for your kids with after school sports or family bike rides!
Click here for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of physical activities to enjoy with your kids.
Talk to Your Kids
A new school, classroom, friends and environment can be overwhelming to your children. Talk to them about their fears, and help them feel confident about the new school year.