Summer is passing quickly and soon it will be time to search for school supplies and the perfect outfit for the first day. This last month of freedom is also a great time to make sure your child is physically and mentally prepared for the school year ahead.
Checkups and immunizations
An annual physical exam is the best way to ensure your child is healthy and virus-free before heading back to class. You will also want to make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date. Certain vaccinations, vision exams, and sports physicals may be required, depending on the child’s age, state guidelines, and the school district in which you live.
Focus on nutrition
Childhood obesity continues to rise, putting children at increased health risk. Luckily, this can be helped if we ensure our children are getting the right foods to help them function at their best and fight infections. Be sure to provide healthy meal options for your kids, including breakfast. Students who eat breakfast are much more alert during class. Avoid giving your children processed foods that can have many empty calories from added sugars and solid fats. If you have a picky eater, keep trying to introduce new foods, be a role model of healthy choices, and don’t use food as a behavioral reward.
Practice healthy habits
One of the most important habits to teach your child is how to properly wash their hands. This is the most effective way to avoid spreading or catching germs. Show them how to wash the fronts and backs of their hands and in between their fingers. To make sure they take their time, ask them to sing the entire alphabet song. Using simple soap and water is best, but hand sanitizers are acceptable when those aren’t available. Remind your children to always cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze.
At least one week before classes start, adjust bedtime schedules to align with the school year. Make sleep a priority – it’s just as important as nutrition and exercise. Most healthy children need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. You will also want to cut back on screen time. Children often lose sleep due to overuse of digital devices. It may be helpful to establish a sleep ritual that includes putting away electronic devices, avoiding exercise, taking a warm bath or hot shower, and reading a book or playing quiet games an hour before going to bed. A light snack before bed can also be beneficial, but be sure to avoid caffeine.
Know the risks
When your child attends school, it is possible that they will be exposed to a number of risks. These may include:
- HEAD LICE. The most common way to get head lice is by head-to-head contact that often happens during play time, sport activities and sleepovers. Stress the importance to your child of not sharing combs, hats, and clothes, and send your child’s pillow on a sleepover. Be aware of excessive head scratching. Perform a visual head check at least once a week, particularly for younger children.
- BULLYING. A small percentage of children actually seek help after being bullied. Keep an eye out for early signs such as changes in behavior, academic problems, anxiety, depression, and self-harm.
- SCOLIOSIS. Make sure your child has regular check-ups for scoliosis and watch for uneven alignment of shoulders or hips. The key to treatment is early diagnosis.
- POOR VISION. Some signs include squinting, tilting the head and holding handheld devices too closely. Schedule a yearly eye exam for your child.
- TICKS. Visually check your child regularly and remove any ticks that are found immediately. If you have any concern about a tick bite, be sure to bring them in to see a provider right away.
- ALLERGIES. A new school year means a new allergy season. Classrooms may hold dust, mold, and other allergens that can be troublesome for children who suffer from allergies. This can cause runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes or trigger asthma or lead indirectly to sinus infections. Also, children who suffer from food allergies can be affected by eating in the cafeteria. Discuss any allergy concerns with your child’s school nurse as soon as possible at the start of the school year.
It is important that you be involved in your child’s education, health and wellness. Speak with teachers and school administration, if necessary, about your child’s likes and dislikes, strengths and opportunities, preferred learning styles, and any other issues that may affect them in school. “Our team wants to ensure a safe and seamless transition between summer break and the start of a new school year,” said Dr. Sarah Aluning, Pediatrician at WW Health.
Dr. Sarah Aluning joined the provider team on July 31, 2017. Dr. Aluning attended Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She attended medical school at Windsor University School of Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies. Dr. Aluning’s post-graduate training was done in the Department of Pediatrics at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey. She takes a special interest in preventative health, nutrition and fitness counseling, and management of obesity.
To schedule a well-child check, physical, or immunizations for your child, please call our 24-hour appointment line at 715-684-1111. Learn more at wwhealth.org.