Make Your List, Check It Twice
Have a Happy, Healthy New School Year
smell of sunscreen. The joy of homework-free evenings. The way-more-flexible
family calendar. Sigh. How did summer pass so quickly? Again?
ready or not, it’s time to think about getting the kids ready to head back to
school. Are your child’s immunizations up to date? Does he need new glasses?
What time should she go to bed? We’ve rounded up expert advice on all this and
more so your kids will be ready for the big day!
Make sure your child is up to
date on all immunizations, including seasonal flu. Ask your child's doctor for a
copy of his or her immunization record. You may need it to prove his or her
immunization status for school. Visit the website of the American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP), at www2.aap.org/immunization,
for lots of helpful information, including:
the AAP’s 2012 childhood immunization schedule (for infants through teens) and
a catch-up schedule for children who may have missed a scheduled vaccination;
updates on vaccine safety and vaccines that are temporarily in short supply;
frequently asked questions about childhood immunizations; and
the AAP’s Immunization Initiatives Newsletter.
it did last year, this year’s seasonal flu vaccine includes protection against
the H1N1 virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC). Getting your child vaccinated is the best method for protecting him or
her from the flu. Talk with your child’s doctor about whether a flu shot or
nasal-spray vaccine would be most appropriate for him or her.
be sure to talk with your child’s doctor about the measles vaccine. An analysis
by the CDC of all measles cases last year showed that children in the U.S. are
at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases brought to this country by travelers.
Measles, in particular, is a current concern: out of the 222 U.S. cases of
measles reported in 2011 (the highest number in 15 years), 200 were linked to
unimmunized travelers who picked up the measles virus abroad.
majority of the measles cases were among people younger than 20. The vaccine is
recommended for all children at ages 12 to 15 months, with a second dose at 4
to 6 years.
is incredibly contagious, and parents need to be aware of the risks of allowing
their child to go unimmunized,” says AAP president Dr. Robert W. Block. “You
never know when your child may come near someone who is infected.”
Have your child's vision
Your child's doctor should be able to perform a basic vision screening. If your
child fails such a screening, or if there is any concern about a vision
problem, he or she should be referred for a comprehensive professional eye
exam, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). For children
who wear glasses, the AAO recommends one-piece wraparound polycarbonate sports
frames during contact sports.
Schedule a dental check-up. Students in the U.S. miss
more than 51 million school hours per year because of dental problems,
according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Teach your child to
floss daily and brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, and take him or
her to the dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning and check-up.
Have your child's hearing
your child listens to the television or to music at very loud volumes or tends
to favor one ear over the other when listening to you speak, it may be a sign
of hearing loss. Talk with your child's doctor about having his or her hearing
Does your child take medication on a regular basis? Make sure school nurses and
teachers are aware of his or her needs, especially if they are the ones who
will be administering the medicine. Speak with them about the prescribed
medication schedule and work out an emergency course of action in case of a
Schedule testing if you
suspect a learning disability or dyslexia. If you feel your child may not be processing
information as he or she should, speak with his or her teacher and doctor as
soon as possible. Your child’s doctor or school should be able to provide a
referral for testing.
Plan ahead for brainpower
Studies show that children who eat breakfast are more alert in class. Try to
include protein (peanut butter or low-fat cheese, milk, or yogurt are good
choices), fruit, and whole grains in your child's morning meals.
Talk with your
child—and the school principal—about healthy eating at school. The AAP encourages parents to
talk to their child’s school about stocking healthy lunch choices, such as
fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water, and 100 percent fruit juice in
school vending machines. A 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10
teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day
increases a child's risk of obesity by 60 percent, according to the AAP.
Restrict your child's soft drink consumption to special occasions.
Update emergency phone
your current emergency phone numbers on file at school? Make sure the school
and your child can reach you or another caregiver at all times.
If your child has a cell
phone, talk with him or her about when and where it can be used safely. Chatting on a cell phone or
texting while walking or biking to school can be dangerous. Explain to your
child the importance of paying attention to his or her surroundings and being
aware of cars and bikes. Set a good example by not using a cell phone while
Choose the right
backpack—and use it safely. Look for a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps. Narrow
straps can dig into shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation. A
padded back increases comfort. Furthermore, a backpack shouldn’t weigh more
than 10 to 20 percent of the student's body weight, according to the AAP.
Remind your child to always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over
one shoulder can strain muscles and may increase chances of developing
curvature of the spine. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
Even better: use a rolling backpack..
Review school bus safety
Designate a safe place for your child to wait for the bus, away from the street
and traffic, and review these safety rules from the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration with him or her:
When boarding the bus, wait for the driver's signal, and board one at a time.
When getting off the bus, look before stepping off it to be sure no cars are
passing on the right. (It’s illegal, but it happens.) Then move away from the
Before crossing the street, take five “giant steps” out from the front of the
bus or until you can see the driver's face. Wait for the driver to signal that
it's safe to cross.
When you come to the edge of the bus, look left-right-left to make sure traffic
is stopped. Keep watching traffic when crossing.
Ask the driver for help if you drop something near the bus. If you bend down to
pick up something, the driver may not be able to see you and you may be hit by
the bus. Use a backpack to keep loose items together.
Create a healthy sleep
The National Sleep Foundation says school-age kids need the following amounts
of sleep every night, by age group:
preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours
ages 5 to 10: 10 to 11 hours
ages 10 to 17: 8.5 to 9.25 hours
like a lot, doesn't it? With the increasing demands on kids’ time from
homework, sports, and other extracurricular activities, those can be tough
prescriptions to follow. In addition, as they get older, school-age children
often become more interested in TV, video games, and the Internet (as well as
caffeinated beverages), all of which can contribute to difficulty falling
asleep and cause sleep disruptions. Poor sleep can, in turn, lead to mood
swings, behavioral problems, and cognitive problems that may affect a child’s
ability to learn.
help your child get a good night’s sleep every night, teach healthy sleep
habits, emphasize the need for a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine,
create a good environment for sleep (dark, cool, and quiet), and keep TVs and
computers out of his or her bedroom. BC
sources of information for this article, not cited above: New York-Presbyterian
Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic.
Sena is a freelance journalist in the Los Angeles area who frequently covers
children’s health issues. Her son is not pleased that she knows the National
Sleep Foundation’s sleep recommendation for teenagers. Visit her website, at www.kathysena.com.
© Baltimore’s Child Inc. August 2012