5 checklist items for back-to-school health
The essentials have been purchased to ready your children to go back to school. From backpacks to new wardrobes, parents have worked to ensure that their child looks their best on that all-important first day of school.
But, have they taken the steps necessary to ensure that their child has a healthy school year as well? Here is a checklist of some of the important steps that can be taken to help parents earn an A in back-to-school health.
Summer breaks and late nights go hand in hand. Routine bedtimes take a backseat to fun once school is out, and for most, the designated time for lights out is ignored. But those early wakeup calls are looming on the horizon and getting enough quality sleep can help with your child’s academic success in the new school year. Pediatricians recommend that children aged 6 to 12 get between 9 and 12 hours of sleep per night and that teens get 8 to 10.
Being able to see the chalkboard/whiteboard from their seats is a key to learning for students, with as much as 80 percent of learning being visual for children. From ages 6 to 18, a child’s vision can change frequently or unexpectedly. This change can lead to behavioral and attention issues in the classroom. Comprehensive back-to-school eye exams are frequently one of the most overlooked items by parents. The VSP Vision Care and YouGov survey “How Parents ‘See’ Eye Health” revealed that 50.1 percent of parents in the United States do not bring their school-age children for a back-to-school eye exam.
Possibly one of the most debated issues regarding children’s health is vaccines. Are they good or are they bad? It is a question that can spark a heated debate. Although each state has its own vaccine requirements to attend public school, all 50 states and the District of Columbia require vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio; measles and rubella (49 states and DC also require mumps vaccination); and varicella (chickenpox).
Studies have shown that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better throughout the school day. Additionally, children who eat breakfast are generally in better health overall, and skipping breakfast is more likely to cause weight gain rather than prevent it. A 2008 study in Pediatrics found that adolescents who ate breakfast daily had a lower body mass index (BMI) than teens who never, or only occasionally, ate breakfast. While sitting down and eating a breakfast that is made up of the four basic food groups is the ideal, it is not always possible. When a grab-and-go breakfast is on the agenda, nutritionists recommend items such as granola bars, breakfast bars, dried fruit, fresh fruit or dry cereal.
Students who plan to play sports in school are required to have a sports physical, which is more comprehensive than an annual wellness checkup. A pre-participation physical examination (PPE) helps to determine whether an individual is physically able to participate in a sport. A study published in 2017 revealed that SCD (sudden cardiac death) is the leading cause of death in athletes during exercise and is 2.5 times greater in athletes versus the general population. PPEs include a check of heart and lung health as well as a sports-specific examination of muscles and bones. It is advised that the physical be completed six weeks before the season to allow time to follow up on any health issues that may be identified.
Article graphics by Lauren Rouse