Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Health Care and Back to School 2012

It’s time to get ready for the annual “Back to School” readiness schedule. Do you have your school supplies? Have you had your children vaccinated for the required immunizations that schools nationwide demand that you have prior to walking on campus on Day One? Have you been to the dentist for that checkup? What about all the new clothes that stores are touting as that “have to have” look so your kids won’t be ostracized as losers? Getting ready to go back to school can be a daunting task.

Pediatrician Dr. Vincent Ianelli says that “while it is often a welcome time for many parents after a long summer of having the kids in the house all day, other parents become a little sad at the thought of their kids going to school, especially if it is for the first time, or anxious when they consider what challenges their children will be facing. In addition to the usual social and educational stresses of going to school, kids are faced with many other issues, including drug use, violence, suicide and bullies. Talking with your children about these issues at age appropriate times may help decrease their chances of becoming a victim to them.”

Additionally, Dr. Ianelli suggests “It is also a good idea to regularly talk with your child about how school is going. Regular communication will help you to recognize problems early, before they get out of control and when it is easier to intervene. Does your child like going to school? Is he making friends? How are his grades? Is there anything he doesn't like about school? What happens during breaks, such as recess, lunch and in between classes? Break-time is when children are most likely to be unsupervised and when problems are likely to occur, so asking open ended questions about what happens during these times may help you to recognize problem behaviors.“

Additional suggestions from another physician make sense to follow. “As the school year begins, it’s vital for parents and caregivers to establish healthy habits to make a child’s transition back to the classroom a smooth one”, according to Dr. Ehab Molokhia, a primary care doctor with the University of South Alabama Physician’s Group, as reported on AL.com. Here’s a list of the doctor’s top tips for keeping school-age children healthy:

1). Eat breakfast. It sustains a child’s energy and has been shown to improve performance at school. Fruits and unsweetened cereal with milk are good choices for the morning meal.

2.) Choose water or low-fat milk over sugary drinks. Parents should offer children older than 2 low-fat milk, which still has the calcium they need without the fat of whole milk. Those 2 and younger still need whole milk for healthy brain development.

3.) Schedule a well-child visit annually with a primary physician or pediatrician. The wellness exams should include a vision and hearing test, which is critical to detect early problems with vision or hearing. “I see kids who have not performed well cognitively,” Dr. Molokhia said. “It ended up they couldn’t hear well or couldn’t see the blackboard.”

4.) Make time for team sports and regular exercise. Group activities, such as soccer, tend to be a pretty healthy habit. They also help motivate a child to exercise more to keep up with other team members.

5.) Stay up-to-date on childhood vaccines. Get a flu shot, too. School-aged children are the ones to worry about because they are in enclosed areas with lots of folks. They are highly encouraged to receive the annual flu vaccination as they constitute an especially high risk population.

6.) Keep copies of medical records on hand. The records should include a description of any allergies children have to medications as well as immunization records, according to Dr. Molokhia. “A list of any illnesses they are receiving treatment for is extremely important to ensure their safety.”

Also, Forbes Magazine has some great advice online about health tips for going back to school, located at this website: http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/20/school-health-tips-business-healthcare-children.html . As well, the website for WebMD.com has a great checklist on getting prepared for the new school year: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/back-to-school-health-checklist . And, the Alliance for Consumer Education has a very good overview on this site: http://www.stopgerms.org/documents/backtoschool.html .

You can get all the books, pencils, lunch kits, backpacks, and notebooks you can carry, but if your child is not healthy, that is a major game changer in getting ready for school. Make sure you find ways to accommodate the health care needs for your kids before school starts. A healthy child can learn more and accomplish more than one who is struggling due to a lack of proper preparedness. Be a good parent, and get your children ready before school starts, for their sake, and yours.

Until next time.

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