Back-to-school health overview

Getting your kids ready to start the school year involves more than finding the perfect backpack, buying school supplies, and shopping for new clothes. It means safeguarding their health so they’ll be physically ready for the challenges of heading back to school.

Consider these tips for a healthy start for your child’s new school year.

1. Wash hands, sing a song

According to Mayo Clinic, the most effective way to avoid spreading or catching germs is hand washing.

To encourage kids and make sure they’ve spent enough time on this healthful task, ask them to sing the alphabet song or “Happy Birthday to You” from start to finish as they wash the fronts and backs of their hands and in-between fingers.

Simple soap and water is best, but hand sanitizers will do when soap and water aren’t available.

Remind your children to always cough or sneeze into the crooks of their elbows or into their sleeves.

2. Don’t forget the shots

Make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date. According to the CDC, every state requires certain vaccinations at different grade levels for children attending public and often private school. Some schools won’t allow students to attend without verification of these immunizations.

Flu vaccines are also recommended for all school-age children, unless the child has an allergy to the vaccine or a health problem that will cause complications from the vaccine.

3. Schedule a check-up

An annual physical exam will ensure your child is healthy and virus-free before going back to class.

In many school districts, a physical is required for those students who want to participate in school sports such as football.

Some states require a vision and hearing exam for students entering kindergarten. This is also a perfect time to update any prescriptions and have medication or other forms signed by your child’s doctor as needed.

4. Reinstate routines

At least a week before classes start, shift your kids from summer carefree sleep hours to bedtime schedules more in line with the school year.

It’s also time for them to cut back on playing computer games and watching television. Help your child with this transition by encouraging reading or playing quiet games an hour before going to bed.

5. Power up with good nutrition

Childhood obesity continues to rise and with it, a greater health risk to those affected. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you can buck this trend.

Provide healthy meal options for your kids. This includes breakfast. Students who eat breakfast are more alert during class than those who don’t. Plus, the right foods combined with adequate rest will help their bodies fight off infections.

6. Check for head lice

Notice any excessive head scratching? Stress the importance to your child of not sharing combs, hats, and clothes, and send your child’s own pillow on a sleepover.

Do a visual head check at least once a week, particularly for younger children.

This time of year, it’s a good idea also to do a body-check looking for ticks, if this is a concern in your area.

7. Be aware of allergens

A new school year coincides with a new allergy season. Children who suffer from allergies get a triple whammy in school where dust mites, mold, and other allergens may flourish in the classroom.

For some kids, it means a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes. For others, these allergens can trigger asthma or lead indirectly to sinus infections.

Also, eating in the cafeteria can present a number of problems for those suffering with food allergies. Discuss any allergy concerns with your child’s school nurse as soon as possible at the start of the school year.