It’s Back to School Time

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By Joseph Halphen PA-C, Lake After Hours Central

Back to school time can arouse anxiety in parents and kids alike, especially when it comes to sickness and health. Aside from marking the end of summer's lazy days, "back to school" signals the start of a crazy time for many families, a time during which we scramble to update immunizations, re-establish more structured eating, television, and bedtime routines.

Decreasing a child’s anxiety about starting school can be a challenge. For a happier, healthier transition, don't wait until the night before school starts to set up sleep and nutrition routines that might not have been strictly enforced over the summer. Try setting bed and wake-up times a few weeks before school starts and gradually adjusting them to be earlier as the first day approaches.

Take a trip to the school in advance so children know where their classroom is located. Give them a chance to meet their teacher, and other staff if possible. If your child has a chronic health condition requiring medication, such as asthma or diabetes, a food allergy, or any type of health care concern requiring special attention, it is important to have a plan in place prior to the first day of school.

Immunizations are a very necessary part of the back to school routine and can be a little scary for kids. Ease your child's worries by talking with them about the health benefits of vaccines so they understand why the shots are important, in most cases this will decrease their anxiety about getting them. Make sure immunizations are current and ask your health care provider about other immunizations that might be recommended but not required, such as the flu vaccine. The CDC currently recommends the flu vaccine for kids ages 6 months and older.

Understanding how illnesses spread among school children is a very important step in prevention. Colds and flu are typically spread from person to person from respiratory droplets. Viruses enter the body through the eyes, mouth, and nose. A sneeze can spray thousands of infectious particles into the air at 200 miles per hour, and travel approximately 3 feet.

How do we keep our kids from getting ill? Though it is almost impossible to remain 100% illness free all of the time, there are things we can do to decrease a child’s chances of getting sick.  It is important to teach kids to wash their hands before and after eating, after playing outside and after using the restroom. Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent illness. Talk to your kids about covering their mouths with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, and send them to school with a bottle of hand sanitizer and encourage them to use it often.

When the time arrives that your child becomes ill it is important to keep your child home and not expose their illness to the rest of the school or daycare. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids, such as water, especially if your child has diarrhea or vomiting. Giving a fever reducer, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (not aspirin), is ok if taken as directed. If there is a question about appropriate dosage, your primary care provider or local pharmacy will be glad to assist. Do not give your child an over-the-counter cold remedy without speaking to your health care provider first. Many of these medicines are no longer recommended for children and some have been recently taken off of the market. It's also helpful to contact the school and ask what illnesses are currently going around. Contact your health care provider if the symptoms persist beyond three days, your child's fever is higher than 101 degrees, or if your child has ear pain, a sore throat, a worsening cough, or a sinus-type headache.

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