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Back-to-School Health and Safety: Quick Tips

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
A girl sitting on the examination table at while her doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to her chest

Are you or your kids stressed about starting a new school year? Here’s how you can help prepare your child for the year ahead.

Healthy Habits

Regular medical checkups are a must to keep your child healthy. It’s a good idea to add a visit to your family’s pediatrician for an annual wellness exam and sport physical to your back-to-school to-do list. These annual visits give your child’s pediatrician a chance to complete a thorough physical examination that also addresses any emotional, developmental, or social concerns.

Parents should also be sure to:

  • Update school health records. Make sure your child’s school has updated information about any health conditions, medications, and/or allergies, especially if there’s been any recent changes.
  • Authorize any 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 office to verify your school’s policy.
  • Stay current with immunizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a series of immunizations beginning in infancy and including booster shots for school-age children. The AAP recommends vaccination against COVID-19 and annual influenza vaccination for all children ages 6 months and older. Check with your child’s doctor to make sure all recommended immunizations are up to date.
  • 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, remind your child not to share food, drinks, or personal care supplies such as hairbrushes, combs or facial tissues,” says Jerri Rose, MD, senior attending emergency room physician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s.
  • Keep children home when they’re sick. The AAP recommends that children stay home from school if they have any fever, feel too sick to participate in class, or have a contagious condition. When in doubt, check with your child’s doctor.

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. Always look both ways before stepping into the street.
  • 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, adequate adult supervision is essential,” says Dr. Rose. “According to the National Playground Safety Institute, 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 walk away from any stranger who asks for directions.
  • Tell a trusted adult (you, their teacher) immediately if anyone – a stranger or someone they know – approaches or interacts with 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.

Related Links

For more than 125 years, University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s has been providing expert pediatric care for infants, children and adolescents in Northeast Ohio. With expertise in 16 medical and 12 surgical specialties, our team of doctors, nurses and other clinical staff has experience in diagnosing and treating children for a range of medical issues, from common childhood illnesses to complex conditions.