Get a Healthy Start on the School Year

August 13, 2013 / Michael M. Siegel, MD

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Photo credit: www.sweetsurprise.com

Summer is coming to an end soon and for many families it is time to get their children ready to go back to school. Here are a few things to consider to stay healthy during the transition from summer days to school days:

First, is your child up to date on all of their immunizations? With the recent worries about the side effects of childhood vaccinations, more children are showing up to school not fully immunized. This places children and their schoolmates at risk for specific preventable diseases. The one that has captured the headlines most recently is the outbreak of whooping cough. This illness is particularly worrisome in homes with other children under 12 months of age as infants have a high incidence of hospital admission and in some cases, death.

Secondly, children may have been involved in many outdoor activities during the summer. When school starts these may be replaced by schoolwork, which means a less active lifestyle. This can lead to more time in front of the computer or TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of “screen time.” Therefore, it is important to make sure kids don’t become couch potatoes. Things you can do to help prevent this are signing kids up for sports programs through your local “Y” or organized leagues for soccer, baseball or other activities they are interested in. In addition, outings such as walks around the neighborhood after dinner or on weekends can get the whole family moving.

Sleep is especially important for young minds as the brain transforms learned material into knowledge while they sleep. Additionally, sleep prepares children to function at their best while in school by being alert and attentive instead of groggy and tired.

Finally, your child’s nutrition is an important issue year round. Whether your son or daughter brings or buys their lunch, it is important that kids know about making good meal choices as well as remembering the importance of watching portion size.

Even though the school year often brings additional activities and stresses for the whole family, it is important to make healthy choices a priority at the beginning of the year to encourage and engrain healthy habits.