By Ashley Anderson
Published July 02, 2015
It’s back to school time again! Where has the time gone? Summer vacation is over and it’s the season for preparing for your child’s next school year.
Getting your kids ready to start the school year involves more than finding the perfect backpack, buying school supplies, and shopping for new clothes. You also need to focus on their health so they will be physically and mentally ready for heading back to class.
Here are some ways to get your children off to a healthy start for their new school year:
Vaccines are important because they protect your child against serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses by increasing the body’s ability to fight infection.
The state of Texas requires certain immunizations before enrolling children in kindergarten through 12th grades.
The following list includes the minimum required vaccinations for children in public school in Texas:
MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
Even if your child already has all of his or her immunizations, you should still schedule an appointment with the pediatrician. You may also want to ask your physician about other immunizations that might be recommended but not required, such as the flu vaccine. While an annual exam is usually required for participation in certain sports, it’s also a good idea to make sure your child is healthy for the new school year.
The annual physical exam gives your pediatrician a chance to address any emotional, developmental or social concerns. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is something you might want to discuss with your doctor. About six million children ages 4-17 are diagnosed with ADHD in America. Some of the signs to look for are a child who doesn’t pay attention to details, makes careless mistakes, has trouble staying focused, is easily distracted, appears not to listen when spoken to, has difficulty remembering things and following instructions, has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects, gets bored with a task before it’s completed, frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys or other items, constantly fidgets and squirms, or has a quick temper or a “short fuse.” Your pediatrician can examine these issues and find out what is best for you and your child.
The American Optometry Association and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend an eye exam when a child is between 6 and 12 months old, and then again as a pre-school student around age 3or 4. Children’s vision systems develop rapidly through age 8, so it is crucial to make sure there is no condition that could hinder them in their vision development.
Dr. Sarah Ward, an optometrist at Longview Eye Associates, provided some tips on what to expect for a child’s first exam.
The doctor will start off by using different lights, toys and pictures to assess visual function and eye health. He or she will also most likely use eye drops to dilate your child’s eyes, which allows the doctor to do a better check on your child’s ocular health and correctly determine any vision problems your child is having. The drops do sting for just a moment, blur your child’s vision and make them sensitive to light for several hours. Sarah also suggests making the experience very positive for the child if he or she needs glasses or an eye patch.
If you think your child might need glasses, look for these symptoms: squinting, rubbing eyes, eyes that water or get red (especially after reading), develop a head tilt, moves closer to an object to focus on it, complains of headaches after reading or at end of the school day, or loses attention when reading. Some children are good at compensating for mild vision issues, and many don’t know how to complain that something looks “blurry” because that is their normal vision.
If you have any questions, it is best to schedule an eye exam so a “mild” problem doesn't cause problems in other areas of life.
Meet with the school nurse
Your school nurse is responsible for caring for students who get sick or injured during school hours, taking vital signs, recording symptoms, and administering basic medical aid. Parents should get to know their child’s school nurse, especially if there are any health issues that need to be addressed. Does your child have any allergies? Are there physical restrictions on your child, such as asthma? Is there a need for special aides such as crutches, walkers or wheelchairs? Letting the nurse know the answers to these questions will help him or her better address your child’s needs. If your child takes any medications, the school nurse needs to know about them even if the child takes the medication only at home. If medication needs to be administered at school, it must be in the pharmacy bottle, clearly marked (not loose). It’s also important to make sure your child’s emergency telephone number card is kept current with your child’s physician and dentist listed. A good relationship with your school nurse will definitely pay off in the long run.
Health Starts at Home
In the end, a healthy lifestyle really starts at home. It’s crucial that parents teach their children healthy habits. First and foremost, teaching children about good hygiene can prevent the spread of germs. Make sure they understand the importance of sanitizing their hands while using the restroom, playing outdoors, or before eating. If your child is sick, it may be best to keep them at home so their fellow classmates don’t get infected. It’s also important to teach your child about healthy eating. Do your best to start your child’s day with a nourishing breakfast because healthy foods will nourish their brains and help them to succeed. Also discuss healthy lunch options with them, especially if they are going to be buying their lunch in the cafeteria. Another great way to help them focus better in school is making sure they get a good night’s rest. Most school aged children require at least 10 hours of sleep per night. This will help them mentally and physically prepare for the next school day.
The back-to-school season can be exciting, stressful and everything in between. Whether you have a kindergartner or a high school teenager, it is important to get their school year off to a happy and healthy start!