11 Ways to a Happy Healthy School Year

11 Ways to a Happy Healthy School Year

As surely as night follows day, the clanging of school bells will soon replace the carefree sounds of summer.

And while purchasing classroom supplies, signing up for after-school activities, and planning transportation are important, keeping kids happy and healthy at home and in the classroom should be at the top of your list.

We talked with Vhada Sharma, MD, and Samone Nore, MD – board-certified pediatricians at St. Luke’s Anderson Pediatrics (conveniently located at the Anderson campus in Easton) – for tips to keep returning students healthy and happy.

1 | Take advantage of school resources

Make the school a great resource by talking with your child’s teachers and counselor, suggests Dr. Sharma. “For kids with special needs, such as those caused by speech or motor skill delays; you might be able to arrange for some therapy in the school itself. Additionally, if you are concerned about bullying, schools offer reinforcements and other services, and you can request a victim-of-bullying informational handout. If your family faces financial difficulties, there is likely a cafeteria plan for in-school meals.”

2 | Schedule annual Pediatrician visit

Having a reputable pediatrician – like those at St. Luke’s Anderson Pediatrics – is key. Be sure to schedule an annual doctor’s visit, which will screen for hearing or vision problems. “I’ve had young patients with trouble hearing or seeing, and it affects their classroom performance. Paying attention becomes too much of a strain, and they can get distracted easily,” says Dr. Nore.

3 | Provide a balanced breakfast

Give them a good start with a healthful breakfast, says Dr. Nore. “Although high-sugar cereals and ‘breakfast bars’ will provide quick energy, it won’t last. Better choices are whole- and multi-grain cereals – especially when fortified with iron and fiber – fresh fruit, or toast and eggs.

4 | Know Every Child is different

Because of their birthdates, some children as young as four may be technically eligible to start school – but that’s not always wise, says Dr. Sharma. An extra year of growing and developing can pay dividends. If you’ve already made plans to enroll your young child in school, just be patient and loving, and understand that some skills may take a bit longer to stick.

5 | Alert the school about any medications

If your child requires non-prescription meds, ask the school for its specific rules on these. Can the child self-administer? Can the teacher? Must the child instead see the school nurse? “Be sure ahead of time,” Dr. Nore cautions. “That way you’ll be prepared when a situation arises.”

6 | Keep them hydrated

It’s easy to get dehydrated during warmer months – but it can happen in cooler weather, too, because heaters tend to dry out the air. That’s a bad thing, as dehydration makes it harder to stay alert and focus. Both pediatricians suggest providing your child with a water bottle to sip on all day.

7 | Start a bedtime routine

Younger children may need 10-12 hours a night, while adolescents can get by on 8-9 hours. “Following a bedtime routine, especially [in advance of and] during the school year, is helpful,” says Dr. Nore. Set a time for hitting the sack, and include some winding-down time. And limit the use of screens before turning in. They interfere with the routine and with sleep itself.

8 | Discuss health issues with your child’s teacher

Kids can bring all sorts of medical situations to school – allergies, diabetes, asthma – so parents should discuss them with the teachers in advance of the first day. “If your child is anxious in certain situations, the teacher will then be aware and be ready to deal with it,” says Dr. Sharma. “You can also fill out forms for inhalers, antihistamines, even an asthma ‘action plan.’ It can help the teacher understand and react to your child’s condition better.”

9 | Have an allergy plan in place

Many schools pride themselves on being nut-free, but parents of allergic children should be prepared for inadvertent exposure. Check the school’s rules about the storage and use of EpiPens, as peanut and other allergies can trigger anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition. “Always remember that the pen does not stop the allergic reaction,” Dr. Nore cautions. “It just buys time. If an episode occurs, call 911 right away.” She adds that any type of breathing issue merits an emergency call.

10 | Check for lice

Although there’s a certain stigma attached to head lice, attitudes are changing. “There is really no medical reason to keep infested children home from school,” says Dr. Nore. Lice aren’t especially contagious – they can’t fly and they can’t jump. Lice are commonly spread via head-to-head contact, or by sharing things like hats and combs. “Younger kids tend to share these things more often than older ones,” says Dr. Nore. “If you notice frequent head scratching, check for lice right away. If you find them, treatment is a simple shampoo procedure.”

11 | Teach proper backpack carrying protocol

We’ve often seen kids hunched over because of their heavy backpacks, but that kind of physical stress isn’t necessary, and can be harmful. “Make sure the weight in the backpack is evenly distributed, use both straps, and be sure that there’s no gap between your child’s back and the pack itself.” says Dr. Nore. One-shoulder carrying can cause muscle strain, and overloaded backpacks can contribute to muscle spasms and lower back pain. She offers a simple alternative. “Students should review the day’s assignments, and bring home only those books that will actually be needed that night. The rest should just stay in their lockers.”

For more resources to raise healthy kids, visit sluhn.org/pediatrics

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