After a year of social distancing and virtual learning, many students are headed back to their classrooms. If you’re a parent, it’s a good time to brush up on back-to-school health tips!
Five Tips for Back-to-School Health
1. Wash your hands: Germs are everywhere. Good hand-washing etiquette can prevent the spread of colds, the flu, and other illnesses and keep your family healthy. At school, your child should wash their hands with soap and water before eating, after going to the bathroom, and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
2. Help your child make healthy meal-time and exercise choices: Unfortunately, 17 percent of children in the United States between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. Adding to the issue, 40 percent of daily calories for this age range are empty calories from added sugars and solid fats. Set a positive example for your child and fill your plate with a balanced diet of protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain carbohydrates. Additionally, encourage them to be active before, during, and after school. Walking, playing at recess, or participating in sports are all great ways to fit in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
3. Know the risks your child faces at school: In-person learning is essential for childhood development, particularly when it comes to socialization skills, but that doesn’t mean it comes without risk. School-aged children are susceptible to:
- Head lice
- Scoliosis – Your pediatrician can do regular scoliosis check-ups during your child’s annual appointment. Early detection is key!
- Bullying – Only 17 percent of children seek help when being bullied. Early signs include changes in behavior, academic troubles, anxiety, depression, and self-injury.
- Poor vision – If your child often squints, tilts their head, or holds their devices too close, it’s time for an eye exam.
4. Make sleep a priority: Many parents don’t realize that sleep is equally as important as diet and exercise. Healthy children need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night. You can achieve this goal by committing to a sleep routine. Keep your child calm in the hour leading up to bedtime. Avoid electronic devices and encourage them to play quietly or read instead. If they’re hungry, offer them a light snack. Make sure their room is quiet, cool, and comfortable.
5. Practice strong communication: Establish an open line of communication with your child’s teacher. You can share things like your child’s favorite subjects, strengths and struggles, preferred learning style, and more. Don’t be afraid to speak up when it comes to your child’s school success!
COVID-19 Safety Recommendations
Although we are seeing more schools returning to in-person learning, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Fortunately, unlike the start of last school year, we now have an effective vaccine that protects against both transmission (although break-through cases are still possible) and severity. The COVID-19 safety recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are very clear:
- Everyone 12 years and older should get a vaccination. Children who meet the current age requirement are able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
- Children between the ages of 2 and 12 should wear a mask in public spaces around people outside of their household.
- Even vaccinated family members may choose to wear a mask indoors as a way to better protect each other.
- Be aware of local outbreaks and adjust your family’s approach as needed.
- If exposed to the virus, be sure to follow quarantine mandates.