Summer is almost over and your children are enjoying every last second of vacation. Believe it or not, now is the time for you to think about sending them back to school. Don’t think your list stops with pencils, backpacks and new clothes. You also need to prepare a back-to-school health checklist.
Children need to be healthy and alert in order to do well in school. That means you need to get ready for everything from physicals to eye exams and schedule some home schooling on germ warfare.
Where should you start? Call your child’s school and ask about required immunizations. Different schools have different requirements. You can do some homework on this yourself. Many school websites have a page of health-related requirements. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also has a generalized schedule of suggested immunizations, but the final decision is up to you, your child’s doctor and the school system.
Your child’s doctor should also perform a physical that can identify any hidden health problems. Hearing tests and eye exams will make sure that your young students are ready for the first day of class. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about one in four school-age children have some type of vision problem.
Once you get all of that out of the way, it’s time to talk with your children about germs and how they spread. Teach the kids when and how to wash their hands properly. Use warm, soapy water after using the bathroom, before eating and when they come home from school. It may sound simple, but it is the best way to battle germs that hitch a ride home on the school bus.
Also, make sure your children know what to do when they need to cough or sneeze. Make sure they carry tissues or, if necessary, sneeze into the inside of their elbow instead of in their hands. And while it may be nice to share some things, it’s not good to share germs, so talk with your kids about not sharing food, drinks, clothes, hats, or hairbrushes with their friends. Head lice are another classroom pest that may be slowed by these good health habits.
During summer vacation, children fall out of their school day routine. They often stay up later than usual and enjoy sleeping in. Bedtime rituals are important during the school year so that young students have enough sleep for a full day in class. Don’t wait until the night before school begins to get back in the routine. Ease your children back into their sleep schedule by gradually imposing an earlier bedtime a few weeks before school begins.
You also need to make sure that your children use their backpacks correctly. It is uncertain whether heavy backpacks cause permanent damage in children, but overloaded and improperly worn backpacks can cause temporary back pain. Pediatricians urge parents to look for backpacks with individual compartments for sharp objects like pencils. Heavier items should be placed closer to the body. Your child’s backpack should also have two shoulder straps for even weight distribution.
You know your child’s teacher, but it’s also important to know the school nurse. Make sure they both know about any medical conditions or allergies that your children have.
Finally, keep your children home if they are sick. That means having a plan for sick days. Pediatricians stress that you should not send your child to school with a fever. A fever means the immune system is trying to fight off something, and your child may be contagious to other children and adults. Have a plan in place for last-minute sick child care because the chances are that you will need it before the school year is over.