Back-to-school health and safety: a quick review

Illness and injury can spoil the fun and learning that school provides. You can help protect your child with these health and safety tips.

Healthy Habits

Regular medical checkups are a must to keep your child healthy. These tips are also important:

  • Keep immunizations up-to-date. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a series of immunizations that begin in infancy and include booster shots for school-age children. Check with your child’s doctor about the most current recommendations for schoolchildren.
  • Teach your children to always wash their hands. Research has proven that frequently washing hands with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent illnesses from spreading among children. “Also, be sure to remind your child not to share other toiletries, such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes, combs or facial tissues,” says Jerri Rose, MD, attending physician at the Marcy R. Horvitz Pediatric Emergency Center at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
  • Keep children home when they are sick. The AAP recommends that children stay home from school if they have a fever, are too sick to participate in class or have a contagious condition. When in doubt, ask your child’s doctor.
  • Alert the school about necessary medications. Most schools require a written note from the parent for a child who needs to take medication. A written order from the child’s doctor may also be needed. Call the school nurse or principal to verify your school’s policy.

Rules for Bus Riders

Most school bus-related injuries occur when children are getting either on or off the bus. In fact, this “danger zone” accounts for about three times as many school bus-related deaths as the ride itself. If your children ride the bus, review these simple rules with them:

  • Stand about six feet away from the curb while waiting for the bus. “To help your children remember this, reinforce that six feet is roughly equivalent to ‘three giant steps,’” says Dr. Rose.
  • Never move toward the bus until it has come to a complete stop, the doors have opened and its safety lights are flashing.
  • Move away from the bus immediately after getting off. Wait for the driver to signal “OK” before crossing in front of the bus and always stay within the bus driver’s view.

Play It Safe

During playground time, make sure children know they should:

  • Go down slides slowly, feet first, one child at a time
  • Stand clear of moving swings
  • Sit while swinging and wait until the swing stops before getting off
  • Avoid playing on wet equipment

“When it comes to keeping children safe on the playground, the importance of adequate adult supervision cannot be emphasized enough,” says Dr. Rose. “According to the National Playground Safety Institute, lack of or improper supervision is associated with almost half of playground-related injuries. Talk with a teacher or principal if you are uncertain about supervision of playground activities at your child’s school.”

Stranger Danger

Many parents’ greatest fear is that their children will fall victim to a violent crime. Teach your children that they should:

  • Never get into a car or go anywhere with a stranger.
  • Be suspicious of and get away from any stranger who asks for directions.
  • Go immediately to the checkout counter, security office or lost-and-found if they become separated from you in a public place. “Also, be sure to instruct them not to wander around looking for you,” says Dr. Rose.
  • Tell you immediately if anyone – a stranger or someone they know – approaches or touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. “It can be extremely helpful to engage your child in role-playing to discuss in advance how they might handle various ‘stranger danger’ situations,” says Dr. Rose.

Head online for more

For more back-to-school health and safety information, visit RainbowBabies.org/injuryprevention.

rose-jerriJerri Rose, MD
Attending Physician, Marcy R. Horvitz Pediatric Emergency Center at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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