Preparing Your Child for a Healthy School Year
Lou Romig, MD
Summer’s coming to an end and it’s time to prepare to send our kids back to school. As you’re getting supplies and new school clothes, it’s also important to prepare your child to go back to school healthy and to stay healthy! According to the CDC, children get 8 to 12 colds or other viral illnesses each school year. To help keep your child(ren) healthy and avoid disruption in your routines Dr. Romig, Medical Director for After Hours Pediatrics Urgent Care, has 4 easy tips for a healthy start to the school year.
- To help protect children from getting sick and subsequently bringing germs home, encourage your children to wash their hands frequently and give older children small bottles of hand sanitizer to use at school encourage frequent hand washing. Talk to your doctor about when it’s safe to keep your child home and observe them when they’re sick and when it’s wise to have your child evaluated urgently.
- Children need sleep to prepare their bodies to expend the energy they need for their activities in and out of school. Children who are sleep deprived may fall asleep in class, have trouble paying attention, make poor decisions about risky behaviors and be very moody. Toddlers and preschoolers need 10-12 hours of sleep every day, while school-aged kids need 10-11 hours and teens need 8-9 hours. Studies show that many children don’t get adequate sleep, especially during the school year. This issue has played a role in some school systems’ decisions to move school start times to later in the morning to allow kids to be better-rested. Over the last several weeks before school starts, gradually move children’s bed and wake-up times to match their school hours. Keeping late hours until the night before school starts will make it much harder for your child to adjust to the new schedule. Restrict your child from TV, computer and phone use for at least an hour, preferably two, before bedtime, as the light spectrum projected by these screens can make the brain more active and interfere with falling asleep. Try to reinforce to children that all cell phone use must stop during rest hours.
- Children also need adequate nutrition and hydration to power their bodies and brains. Whether it’s a sit-down meal or on-the-go, try to make sure your children have a nutritious breakfast that includes protein for extra energy that will keep them going until lunch. Teach children about the building blocks of a nutritious diet and give them guidance about choosing the proper foods for lunch at school if they don’t take a healthy lunch with them. Encourage your children to drink as much water as they can at school.
- If sports are on your child’s school agenda, talk to coaches about what precautions they take against the late summer and early fall Florida heat and assure that children will have free access to water and/or electrolyte solutions to drink during practice and games. Let your child know that if they get dizzy, have a headache, get very thirsty, are nauseated or have muscle cramps while exercising (in sports or PE), they should stop, tell the teacher or coach they’re not feeling well, get to a shaded area or into air conditioning, and drink fluids. If your child will be engaging in contact sports, assure that coaches and athletic trainers are educated about traumatic brain injury and concussions and that the team has a protocol for dealing with athletes with possible head injuries.
Here’s wishing you and your family a healthy and happy school year!