Have a Healthy School Year

August 19, 2011

Immunizations at the start of school year

Buying books, clothes, and other supplies. Getting bus routes. Planning carpools. There's so much to do to get your children ready for the school year. But now is also the time to make sure your child has a healthy year. The more often your children are healthy at school, the more they learn.

So, what should be on your school health checklist? WebMD.com has some tips on the subject.

First, all your child's immunizations, shots, or vaccinations should be current. Also, before the school year begins, your child should have vision and hearing tests. If your child has health issues, you should connect with the school nurse.

Immunizations

Most schools won't admit a student without a record of immunizations. According to WebMD , the most common immunizations schools require are for hepatitis B and chickenpox. Your child may also need a booster of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine.

It's a good idea to have your child get a flu shot, too.

The website of the American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP.org, is a good source of information. It will help you decide which shots are needed at which age. Your school district or local health department can also help. And, of course, you should talk to your child's doctor.

Many public health departments offer free immunizations for children whose families don't have health insurance.

Vision is so important

As many as one in 20 children can't see out of one eye, says one leading pediatric ophthalmologist in New York City. A pediatric ophthalmologist specializes in children's eye health.

Even though schools often do some vision testing, this doctor thinks parents should have an eye doctor test their children. The reason for vision tests is simple: children who can't see well can't perform as well in school.

As a parent, this doctor demands testing by an eye specialist. She says that parents often say "My kid would tell me if he couldn't see," but she says often this isn't true because children don't know any differently. In fact, she says, kids will even try to fool the doctor on the eye test. And she admits to being "faked out" a few times herself.

When one of a child's eyes doesn't work correctly, it's often called a "lazy eye." Children have to wear a patch over the strong eye. And while some improvement comes quickly, complete recovery takes time. But specialists say it's well worth the trouble. With the right care, a child with a lazy eye can develop fairly normal vision, and even gain peripheral vision – the ability to see out of the corners of his or her eyes.

Protect kids from viruses that cause illness

Viruses are to blame for many childhood illnesses. All it takes is a single child to bring a virus to school, and then everyone's sick. The simplest, most effective way to fight this? Frequent hand washing. Remind your child to wash his or her hands before eating or after playing outside. Your child should also wash after using the toilet, or blowing his or her nose. A good rule of thumb for handwashing is to soap up for as long as it takes to sing the ABCs.

Here are a few more school health tips

Common sense can go a long way toward preventing illness in the classroom. Mayoclinic.com offers some more school health basics you can teach your child:

Use hand sanitizer

Give your child alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep in his or her desk. Remind your child to use the sanitizer before eating snacks or lunch. You might also donate a jar of those disinfecting wipes to your child's classroom for general use.

Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze

Give your child a package of tissues to keep in his or her desk. Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue, and then to put the tissue in the trash. When your child can't grab a tissue in time, it's best to cough or sneeze into the bend of his or her elbow.

Keep your hands away from your eyes and out of your mouth

Remind your child that hands are often covered in germs.

Don't share water bottles, food or other personal items

Tell your children that in this case, it's OK not to share. The same goes for hats and other headgear.

Of course, it's also important for children to eat a healthy diet

Make sure they also get plenty of sleep. To keep from spreading illness at home, use these same tips for your whole family.

Make sure your child and his or her school is ready for any emergency

Both your child and his or her school should have a card with current emergency contact information. If you move or change a telephone number, update the card right away. Your child's doctor and dentist should also be listed.

The school nurse and/or secretary also need to know which medicines your child takes .

Even if your child only takes the medicine at home, the nurse should know. Your child's school should also know about any health problems, including allergies. With so many food and plant allergies today, this is very important.

If your child has physical restrictions or health issues like asthma, the school must know this, too.

Ease your child's burden

Oh, and those jumbo backpacks? The American Academy of Pediatrics gives them an "F." A loaded backpack should never weigh more than 20% of a child's body weight. It should also have wide straps and a padded back. Some children even prefer rolling backpacks.

Get to bed on time!

Sleep is also a big thing. A growing child needs eight hours of sleep each night. Teens need even more.

Breakfast is fundamental

Finally, a good breakfast is so important. Whether they eat breakfast at home or at school, a nutritious breakfast helps children focus and concentrate. And as we all know, focus and concentration are supplies every kid needs to succeed in school.

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