Be Educated on Back to School Health
Worrying about our children’s health is a concern that never goes away, but going back to school brings a plethora of other concerns, from contagious illnesses to mental health. Being prepared for school requires more than just new pencils and notebooks.
Depending on your child’s age, there may be health requirements before returning to school, such as vaccinations along with school and sports physicals. These will help identify any underlying conditions that may be present and protect from any dangerous diseases your child could be exposed to. However, viruses and bacteria are still spread easily in school environments, so teach your child proper cleanliness, such as handwashing; talk about what items are not okay to share, like a straw or eating utensils; and discuss ways to prevent spreading illness, from covering a cough or sneeze, using tissues, taking advantage of the classroom hand sanitizer, and staying home when necessary. While these behaviors may not prevent every illness, they could potentially lessen your child’s chance of contracting the bug, or prevent them from spreading it to others.
Of course, children’s health is not limited to colds and viruses. There are several other concerns that make up overall health, including nutrition, school-related risks, sleep habits, and mental health.
- Nutrition: According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 17% of children ages 2 – 19 in the U.S. are considered obese, and 40% of total calories for those 2 – 18 are considered “empty calories,” coming from added sugars and solid fats. Help your child consume a healthy diet by continually introducing new, healthy foods; practice what you preach and eat healthy foods with them; and don’t use food as a reward.
- School-Related Risks: From the moment children begin attending school, they are presented with all sorts of new health risks. Understanding what they are and being able to identify signs and symptoms will allow you to help. Common risks include:
- Head Lice: These itchy bugs are easily spread by head-to-head contact, whether during playtime, sports, or sleepovers. Frequent head scratching may be enough to check your child’s hair for signs that treatment is needed.
- Scoliosis: Watch for signs of scoliosis to appear as your child grows. It most commonly is presented during the growth spurt occurring just before puberty. The child may exhibit uneven shoulders, hips or waist, or one shoulder blade more prominent than the other. Early diagnosis is vital to begin monitoring and treatment if necessary.
- Bullying: Getting back into an environment of many different children from all sorts of backgrounds opens children up to bullying in various forms. While many children have experienced bullying at some point, only 17% seek help. Keep an eye out for changes in behavior, academic problems, anxiety, depression, and self-harm, as they can all be signs your child is being bullied.
- Poor Vision: Unclear vision can result in academic issues, headaches and fatigue. If you notice your child squinting, tilting their head, or holding the smartphone too close, it may be time to get a vision test.
- Sleep Habits: Just like diet and exercise, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important foundations of a healthy lifestyle. Sleep helps immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and more. Typically, healthy children require 8 – 10 hours of sleep per night. Much like we had as babies, sleep rituals help prepare our brains for sleep. Electronics should be put away at least one hour prior to sleep; do not exercise, take a warm bath, or hot shower shortly before bedtime; read a book just before bed; and eat a light snack before bed, but be sure to avoid caffeine.
- Mental Health: Children can experience stress, anxiety, depression, and more just like adults. Keeping an open dialogue with your child can help them feel more comfortable discussing any difficulties they may be experiencing, allowing you the opportunity to help however possible. Know their likes and dislikes, where their strengths and struggles show, how they prefer to learn, and any other issues that may affect their education. Bringing any concerns to your child’s teacher will also equip them to create an environment that will help facilitate their learning.
Your child returning to school may also have an impact on your life, adding extra stress in the morning routine, running to extracurricular activities in addition to your daily tasks, and more. Practice time management whenever necessary and prepare ahead to eliminate the hectic feeling of rushing around. Be sure to keep your home clean and disinfect frequently to prevent any of those contagious illnesses from coming home to your family. And, most importantly, take time for yourself whenever you can as it’s easy to get lost in the hustle of school life.
Being prepared for a healthy school year is important for your children and your family. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teachers for school-related concerns, and visit us for any health questions or assistance. Receiving an education is important, and our goal is to keep your kids healthy so they can continue on their path towards success.