Back-to-School Health Tips for your Family
As kids are getting back into the swing of school and homework, parents and caregivers have a little homework themselves. This time of year is a good time to anticipate children’s annual medical visits, as well as to reinforce healthy habits and prepare for the year ahead.
Here is a little homework to set your child up for success – and good health – as they return to school.
Table of contents
1. Make necessary doctors’ appointments
2. Instill positive habits
3. Understand school screenings
4. Find medical care for your child
Make necessary doctors’ appointments
Schedule annual physicals for school and sports
Check with your school to learn which physicals your child will need prior to their return, depending upon their grade and any sports they plan to play. Some schools may offer physicals at special events at their facilities, while others require you to see your family doctor. (View AnMed Health primary care practices that offer annual school and sports physicals.)
Before your child’s physical, gather health history information to make the physical as easy as possible. You’ll want to be ready to answer questions about your child’s past illnesses and injuries, as well as your family’s health history.
Especially with younger children, it’s important to prepare them for the visit, to answer their questions and to address any concerns they have. Teach them that an annual physical is a positive step in taking care of their health and that doctors are there to help them.
The COVID-19 vaccine is just one of several vaccinations that can protect your child’s health. Parents are encouraged to talk to their family doctors about getting the vaccine for their children 12 years old and older. To help protect children of all ages, provide them with a mask to wear when appropriate and remind them to maintain social distancing when possible and regularly wash and sanitize their hands.
In addition, be sure to stay up to date on which vaccines your kids need and when; this vaccination chart from the CDC offers the guidelines from birth through age 18.
Schedule dentist's appointment
Most children should visit a dentist every six months; if your child requires more frequent or less frequent visits, your dentist will let you know. Prepare your child for the appointment by telling them what to expect and to create a positive feeling of the experience. If your child has fears about the dentist office, it’s important to let them share those feelings and to talk about their concerns.
Good oral health is about more than healthy teeth. If cavities are left untreated, they can cause pain and even difficulty speaking and eating. The CDC has found that poor oral health in children is associated with lower grades and more missed school.
Instill positive habits
Create positive sleep habits
Children who get enough sleep tend to be healthier, perform better in school and have better mental health than children who don’t sleep enough. But how much sleep is enough sleep? Pediatricians’ sleep recommendations depend upon the child’s age:
· Infants: 12 to 16 hours of sleep (including naps)
· Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
· Preschoolers: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
· Grade Schoolers: 9 to 12 hours
· Teenagers: 8 to 10 hours
You can help your child create positive sleep habits by creating a daily bedtime ritual. Turn off screens, whether on the phone or the television, at least an hour before bedtime. When it’s time for bed, have a few activities that signal to your child that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep: perhaps bathing, teeth brushing, choosing pajamas and reading. Maintain the same bedtime and wake time each day, both weekends and weekdays, to keep your kids on schedule.
Create healthy food habits
One of the best ways for parents and caregivers to create healthy food habits in children is to model those good habits themselves. Choose a variety of foods – including fruits, vegetables and healthy grains – that give you a variety of nutrients. (One easy way to recognize a healthy meal: The more colors of fruits and veggies there are, the more nutrients tend to be there, too.) And while certain foods should be limited, including fast foods, processed foods and sugary drinks, you don’t have to ban them entirely. For inspiration, see what a healthy plate for kids looks like.
Healthy food habit tips:
DO find ways to include fruits and veggies into delicious snacks. Healthy foods should be seen as fun, not punishment.
DON’T force children to finish all the food on their plate. They should learn to listen to their bodies and finish eating when they’re full.
DO make a steady schedule for meals and snacks. This can prevent over- or under-eating when everyone knows when the next meal will be.
DON’T turn food into a reward or bribe. To praise your kids, use kind words or hugs instead.
DO let children help decide menus, help shop for food and help prepare meals. This can be a great time to show kids how to read nutrition labels and teach them how to make good decisions.
Instill positive hygiene
When helping children create positive hygiene habits, put the focus on how these habits make them healthier. It’s about more than how we look, but it’s about how we feel. And, just like healthy food habits, one of the most important ways to teach children these skills is to model them yourself:
Hand washing: before and after meals, after going to the bathroom, after playing with pets and after being with someone who is sick
Hair washing: typically two or three times each week
Teeth brushing and flossing: at least two times per day. Encourage children not to share their hair brush to prevent getting head lice.
Frequency of bathing depends on a child’s age. Babies, toddlers and small children should get bath time two to three times each week. (Daily baths can be hard on their soft skin.) Older kids, between six and eleven, should bathe at least two or three times a week as well, but more often if needed. Pre-teens and teenagers should shower each day.
Prepare for upcoming screenings
Your child will likely receive additional screenings at school. Here are some resources for additional information about each of them:
The National Association of School Nurses offers a wide variety of resources about vision screening and eye health in children. Because vision problems can be common in children – and they can create problems in development and school performance – it’s crucial to regularly screen children’s vision.
Like vision screening, hearing impairments that go undetected can create developmental, social and academic problems for children. Learn about the importance of hearing screening in children from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Head lice screening
Head lice are common in children: about six to 12 million infestations occur in kids between 3 and 11 every year. Not all schools offer lice screenings anymore, however. Instead of screenings, some schools place their focus on prevention and treatment. In South Carolina, individual schools determine their own lice policies. Learn how to treat head lice, in case your child comes in contact with an infestation at school.
Find medical care for your child
If your family needs a family doctor or pediatrician, visit AnMedHealth.org/Doctors or call AnMed Health WellnessConnect, 864.512.3748.
If your child needs medical care for minor illnesses or injuries, visit AnMed Health Kids' Care or AnMed Health CareConnect. Whether your child has a cold, a rash or a sprain, our providers can care for them quickly and conveniently. Learn more at AnMedHealth.org/Locations.