The Healthy Path to Getting Back to School
What? It’s the middle of summer and you have to worry about the back to school routine already? No need to panic—you still have weeks of fun in the sun left. But getting your child back on track starts well before the first day of classes. Here are some tips to help prepare your kids to be in optimal health and a ready-to-learn frame of mind when they begin the school year.
Take care of immunizations now
Don’t wait until the last weekend before the start of school to make sure your child has all of the immunizations they need. Avoid the crowds at your pediatrician’s office or area clinics in early August and get your child immunized now.
For families who are moving to Georgia from another state and/or are enrolling their child in a Georgia school or daycare for the first time, below are links to learn more about immunization requirements in counties surrounding Atlanta:
Start school night bedtime schedules
During summer, it’s natural to let your child go to bed and wake up later than usual. But when the first day of school approaches, it’s important to have your kids already well into their normal sleep schedule.
Re-establish regular bedtimes at least a week before school begins so that your kids can gradually ease back into their sleep routine. Also be sure that they turn off tablets, mobile phones, and computers at least one hour before bedtime. In addition, have your children stop drinking any beverages with sugar or caffeine—sodas, juices, and energy/sports drinks. Water and low-fat milk are better beverages. As they head to bed, reading a book will both help to settle them down to sleep and get them back into learning mode.
Schedule required sport physicals exams
In addition to routine annual physical exams, if your child will be playing a sport, they will need to have a sports physical exam as well. These focus on body functions that are stressed during active or prolonged physical exertion—breathing, heart rate, muscle performance, coordination, and bone/joint health, to name a few—to ensure that the sport won’t endanger your child’s health or aggravate an existing condition. Use this opportunity to discuss any other health-related questions or issues with your child’s pediatrician as well.
Have your child’s vision checked
Having good vision is critically important for achieving success in class. Children rarely bring up any problems they have with their vision, so be proactive in scheduling an eye exam before school begins. If you see your child bringing mobile device screens close to their face, squinting frequently at distant objects, or having trouble reading, take action soon.
Take precautions against meningitis
Bacterial meningitis is a rare but dangerous condition that is often seen among teens. It occurs when the membrane around the brain and spinal cord is infected and become inflamed, resulting in a wide range of symptoms that include headache, fever, stiff neck, chills, vomiting, rash, fatigue, and many others. If you have a child who is entering high school or going off to college, an easy way to prevent meningitis is through a vaccine. Ask your physician about the meningococcal B vaccine.
Some easy steps your child can take to prevent meningitis include:
- Washing hands with soap frequently
- Avoiding sharing cups, utensils, chapstick, and other items that may contain saliva, among friends
- Sneezing into the inside of the elbow or into a tissue
- Keeping hands away from the face—don’t bite nails, rub eyes, lick fingers, or pick nose
Get a good backpackPoorly designed backpacks with heavy loads can often lead to back, shoulder, and neck pain. Be sure that your child’s new backpack has padded shoulder straps and back panels, as well as features to help distribute load weight evenly, such as waist belts or clips that connect shoulder straps across the sternum. And encourage your child to always use both shoulder straps instead of casually carrying the backpack on just one shoulder.
Be safe on the way to school
If your child is old enough to walk to school on their own, be sure they know how to do so safely. This includes walking on a sidewalk when available, crossing roads only at intersections and within crosswalks, and always obeying crossing guard commands. If possible, have your child walk to school with a friend or in a group.
David Levine, M.D.
Specializes in Pediatrics
Learn more about Dr. Levine.