Seven Back-to-School Health Tips for Kids

It feels like summer break just started, but as the old adage goes, time flies when you are having fun. School will be here before we know it! As the school year approaches and parents are scheduling school physicals, it’s a good time to start thinking about how to keep kids healthy throughout the school year. We spoke with Little Company of Mary Family Medicine Physician Dr. Jawwad Hussain to gather his best tips and advice for keeping kids healthy throughout the school year.

Hussain1. Healthy Lunches: Have the kids take part in packing their lunches. Numerous experts say that the key is to respect your child’s eating style and preferences. Get your child to choose and prepare their lunches to pique their interest in the meal. This way you can teach your children proper portion sizing and healthy choices of produce, protein, and fiber. Try to make it a fun activity. The most nutritious lunches include foods from at least three food groups. The website www.ChooseMyPlate.gov is a great resource for parents to explore for healthy food choices. Physicians can also refer you to a dietician/nutritionist for more formal education as well.

2. Sleep: Get 8-10 hours. School age children should get between 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. To help accomplish this, it is important that parents develop bedtime rituals, maintain a distraction free sleep environment, establish consistent awakening times, and avoid caffeinated drinks.

3. Vaccines: Get the flu vaccine. Everyone above age six months of age should get the flu vaccine even if they are healthy. This helps decrease the spread of the flu virus. The flu vaccine is especially important in certain population groups who are at higher risk for complications from the flu virus.  These populations include:
•    Children ages six months-four years
•    Adults older than 50
•    Immuno-suppressed individuals/household contacts
•    Those with chronic lung, heart, liver, or blood disorders
•    Pregnant women
•    Health care personnel/nursing home residents
•    Household contacts/caregivers of children younger than five years old or adults older than 50

4. Help avoid spreading germs by washing hands. Make sure you reinforce hand washing! It is very important for parents to emphasize simple hand hygiene including washing hands after sneezing and before and after eating. Parents should also demonstrate proper hand washing techniques. These include:
•    Wetting your hands.
•    Apply soap and lather so that it covers the entire hand.
•    Scrub for at least 20 seconds—have them sing the ABCs.
•    Rinse and dry with towel.

5. When should you keep your child home sick from school? Use discretion. This is indeed a difficult, yet frequent decision parents are faced with. Parents must ask themselves if their child is well enough to participate in school activities. If the answer is “No,” it may be prudent to keep your child at home for the day. A child that develops fever, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea should be kept home from school until symptoms improve/abate. Never forget, if you have any questions, your physician’s office is a great resource for guidance.

6. Get kids moving an hour a day. Parents should encourage kids to pursue safe, fun activities that they enjoy. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends one hour of physical activity and no more than two hours of screen time (TV/computer/phone/video game) daily. Get your children away from the TV/computer and video games!

7. Set a good, healthy example. Change starts at home. Remember, we are role models for our children. It is imperative to establish a healthy environment at home. If we make healthy lifestyle choices, our children are far more likely to follow suit.

Soon it will be time to set up an appointment for your child to have a back-to-school physical. We asked Dr. Hussain what he looks for during school checkups. “Back to school physicals offer many advantages. Not only is it an opportunity to identify any physical or developmental problems, but it also is an opportunity for the physician to develop a rapport with the child, making the child more apt to seek help when they require,” said Hussain. “Also, it is important for their physician to monitor emotional development, especially during adolescence, when bullying is unfortunately quite prevalent. Additionally, it is another opportunity to reinforce healthy lifestyle choices and healthy weight.”

Dr. Hussain is accepting new patients at his Vista Medical Center practice location (10961 South Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL). Call 773-239-9100 to schedule an appointment or a free 15 minute meet and greet. Learn more about Dr. Hussain.

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