Well, it’s officially August. That means that “back to school” is just around the corner. So what can you do to promote your child’s health as they return to school?
One of the most common recommendations for returning to school is to make sure that your child’s immunizations and vaccines are up to date. Certain booster shots may be required depending on the vaccine. I know that lately there has been a lot of controversy over vaccinations and their possible involvement in the increased number of autism cases. A few things to keep in mind regarding vaccination are as follows: vaccinations are important for preventing conditions that can be debilitating or even deadly (ex. polio, hepatitis, whooping cough, chicken pox, etc.), research has not found any definitive link between vaccinations and autism, and increasing numbers of autism cases may be attributed to an increased awareness of the disorder and therefore increased diagnosis of the condition rather than a true increase in prevalence. From a healthcare standpoint, vaccinations are highly recommended in order to save your children from conditions that are possibly life threatening.
A second very common recommendation is that your children get a full eye exam before returning to school. Vision problems are estimated to be present in 1 in 4 children, and the sooner a problem is found, the better it can be managed. Certain conditions including lazy eye or crossed eyes need to be treated early because once the child reaches 7 or 8 years old the opportunity for correcting the issue may have passed thus resulting in permanent vision problems.
Sleep patterns are extremely important for people of all ages, but especially children who need to use their brains for learning all day. For children ages 6-9, it is recommended that they get 10-11 hours of sleep per night rather than the standard 8 hours that you often hear recommended. Make sure your child gets into a good pattern with sleep prior to the start of school so that the transition back is not as difficult.
Childhood obesity is a very important issue and is not just a matter of social image. Childhood obesity can lead to significant health risks in the future including heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer. Getting your children on a healthy routine with physical activity instead of playing video games and watching TV all day is important. A child’s diet is a huge component of obesity. For example, drinking one soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60 percent. Start feeding your children healthy snacks including milk and fruit versus sugary drinks and salty, high-calorie foods. Take an active role in what your child eats at school by assisting with packing a lunch and knowing what will be offered at school.
Backpacks can be a large cause of back pain for children. Backpack safety regarding proper fit and weight was discussed in a prior blog which can be found here. Some experts recommend getting your children on a good core strengthening program to prevent back pain. The physical therapists at Advanced Physical Therapy and Fitness can help you develop an appropriate core strengthening program specific to your child’s needs.
If your child does gets sick during the school year, remember to check for a fever. If he/she has a fever, he/she should not go to school because of the increased risk for spreading the illness during the fever stage. You should wait until the fever has been gone for 24 hours without medication before returning your child to school, according to Dr. Gutierrez of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. To prevent the onset of an infection, hand washing is imperative. Promote good hand washing routines with your child including washing hands after using the restroom or before eating a meal. You may want to consider providing hand sanitizer to your child if he/she does not have the opportunity to wash up before eating.
The most important thing to remember is that you as a parent need to take an active role in promoting your child’s health with return to school. Some roles are easier than others including setting up appointments for vaccinations and eye exams, but others take more work including promoting a good diet and physical activity. Another important role is to communicate with your children on a regular basis. If you know how your child acts on a normal basis, then you will be more equipped to know when something is wrong either physically or emotionally.