Back to School Health

While most students tend to get caught up in the excitement of selecting fresh school supplies, choosing new clothing and discovering who will be in their classes, your child's health is an important item that deserves a spot on any back-to-school checklist. Safeguard the well-being of your child and help ensure that they are prepared to learn by following these four tips for a healthy school year.

1. Connect With the School Nurse

The school nurse is a natural ally in your quest to keep your child healthy, so connecting with this member of the school staff is a smart start. Ask the nurse to explain the school's policies regarding required vaccinations, illness or injury, and medications. If your child has special concerns or needs, make sure that the nurse is aware of them. Even if your child is generally healthy, be certain that the nurse knows how to contact you and encourage them to reach out if an issue arises.

2. Schedule a Checkup

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school-age children have an annual well-child checkup and provides pre-visit questionnaires to help you make the most of these yearly encounters with the doctor. Regular checkups provide an invaluable opportunity to:

• Secure preventative care like vision and hearing screenings • Get the appropriate vaccinations for your child • Discuss any concerns that you have about your child's health • Track your child's growth and development to verify that everything is progressing normally • Build a positive relationship between you, your child and your pediatrician

3. Make Sleep a Priority

Alarm clocks often gather dust during summer vacations, but you will want to reinstate a regular sleep routine before the school bell begins to ring. Insufficient sleep can trigger daytime sleepiness, mood swings and behavioral problems in children, making it unnecessarily difficult for them to concentrate on learning while at school. How much sleep does your child need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, children between the ages of 6 and 13 require nine to 11 hours of sleep each night; teens between 14 and 17 need eight to 10 hours of slumber.

4. Remind Your Child to Wash Their Hands

Communities dedicated to learning, schools bring students together to share ideas and experiences. Unfortunately, this environment also allows them to share something less pleasant. Germs can linger on many surfaces in a school, and simply touching a contaminated object gives germs a chance to transfer to your child's hands. While it is nearly impossible for them to avoid these infectious agents completely, there is something they can do to protect themselves and their health: wash their hands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that hand-washing education decreases respiratory illnesses by around 20 percent and reduces the number of people who fall victim to diarrhea by more than 30 percent. While the CDC says washing with soap, water and the proper hand-washing technique is generally the best way to get rid of germs, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is a minimum of 60 percent alcohol can be a reasonable option if soap and water are not available.

Getting your kids ready to start the school year involves more than buying school supplies and shopping for new clothes. It means safeguarding their health so they'll be physically ready for the year ahead.

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