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Your Back-to-School Checklist

Posted 7/29/2016 by UHBlog

Is your child ready to start school? We can help.

Your Back-to-School Checklist

As children splash in pools and ride bicycles this summer, it’s easy to forget the first day of school is close at hand. But it’s not too early to begin preparing for a new school year.

To get a jump on the upcoming year, pediatrician James Underwood, DO offers these 11 tips to ensure your child has a healthy, safe and productive school year:

  1. Update immunizations. Parts of the country are seeing a rise in measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and other diseases that were once thought to be under control. Students entering seventh grade require an Adacel or Tdap booster shot that protects against pertussis and tetanus. Menactra shots, which protect against meningitis, are needed at the seventh and tenth grades.
  2. Schedule sports physicals with your child’s pediatrician. Walk-in clinics at pharmacies often don’t perform the head-to-toe exam your pediatrician will conduct. They also don’t have access to your child’s medical history, which prompts some families to attempt bypassing their doctor if their child has a medical condition that would prevent her from playing sports. Don’t, Dr. Underwood says. You’re putting her health at risk.
  3. Be proactive. Yearly physicals are critical for preventing illness. They’re also the time to discuss concerns.
    “During physicals, we can do assessments that can pick up developmental, behavioral or learning issues,” he says.
  4. Complete paperwork. For many parents, that simply means providing immunization dates and emergency contact information. You can make your information gathering easier by consulting your child's records at University Hospitals Personal Health Record. Medication consent forms are necessary for kids with asthma, allergies and other chronic conditions.
  5. Review at-school medications. “If your child is old enough to carry their own medications, tell them not to share with anyone,” Dr. Underwood says. “If they have exercise-induced asthma and are not old enough to carry or able to administer their Albuterol inhaler themselves, they need to go to the nurse’s office at least 15 minutes prior to gym class. If there has been exposure to peanuts, they should go to the office right away because they may need to have their Epi pen administered if showing any signs of having a reaction.”
  6. Regulate sleep. Begin enforcing school-night bedtimes a month before school begins. That’s challenging with teenagers who answer text messages or play on iPads at bedtime. Consider a technology curfew to help them get a better night’s rest.
  7. Discuss safety. If your child walks to school, practice the route ahead of time and find a walking buddy. Instruct your child to tell you, a bus driver, teacher or principal about any bullies he encounters walking to school, riding a bus or on school grounds.
  8. Don’t overload. Backpacks shouldn’t exceed 10 to 20 percent of a child’s bodyweight. Look for backpacks with wide, padded shoulder straps and encourage your child to wear the straps over both shoulders to prevent strain. If your school allows it, consider a rolling backpack.
  9. Fuel up. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because good nutrition affects concentration,” Dr. Underwood says. “We recommend at least 100 calories. So even if you're in a rush, they should at least have a glass of milk or a nutritional bar.”
    Review school menus and pack a balanced lunch, including a fruit and vegetable, on days your child won’t eat the school’s meal.
  10. Create a study haven. Identify a quiet space where your child can concentrate. Use the remainder of summer break to encourage him to read or do math problems, especially if he struggles in the subject.
    “Then it will not be as difficult when they get back to school,” he says.
  11. Emphasize good hygiene. That means:
    • Wash hands regularly
    • Don’t share drinks or lip balm
    • Don’t share hairbrushes, which can transmit lice

James Underwood, DO is a pediatrician at UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Underwood or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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