The start of the school year may be the most exciting time of the year (well maybe just for parents…) However going back to school can bring on a slew of health issues, so let’s look at how we can prevent them.
The most basic and easiest thing we can teach our children is to wash their hands whenever they touch something dirty, use the restroom or before they eat. True we need to be exposed to germs to increase our immunity, but some of these germs aren’t friendly and bring on colds, flu, rashes and intestinal bugs when we’re not expecting it.
If a child skips breakfast or eats primarily sugar and carbohydrates, they not only face immune system weaknesses but also poor attention, concentration and ability to do well in school. Make sure your kids eat a good breakfast with protein and Vitamin C-packed fruits before heading for the school bus.
If the kids were accustomed to staying up late and now have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, they might spend much of their school day nodding off. Insufficient sleep has been linked to obesity as well as poor immunity so get them on a regular schedule of a bedtime that will allow 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
Chances are your child grew an inch this summer, so shoes and clothing may be a little tight. Use the finger tip rule for pants and shoes to make sure there is room to grow. And avoid accessories that your kids can chew on, swallow or can lose as they will concentrate more on the lost earring than what the teacher is saying.
Talk to them, often
Back to school can bring on anxiety in many children and make sure you have open conversations to allow them to share their fears. Bullies make themselves apparent the first few days of school, and your child may be getting wet willies, wedgies or their lunch stolen right under the teacher’s nose.
Be aware of what’s going around the school
If joining the PTA doesn’t appeal to you, at least make buddies with parents of children in your kid’s class as they will be the first to notify you if lice, pink eye or sore throat is making the rounds before a school may.
Discuss stranger safety with your children
If you child walks to or from school or a bus stop, educate them on how to avoid strangers and what to do if approached by one. Consider driving your child if you think they are at risk.
Teachers face health risks
In 2006, a study published in BMC Public Health, found teachers to suffer more from ENT (ear, nose and throat) ailments, dermatitis, bladder infections, bronchitis, conjunctivitis and varicose veins than those who work in other professions. Teachers are on the front lines when it comes to cough and cold season as they come into contact with hundreds of children a day, many of whom are contagious prior to knowing they are symptomatic. Once the fever shows itself, parents may keep the child home but the student already exposed others earlier in the day.
Standing on one’s feet for extended hours does a number on the peripheral vascular system, manifesting in leg swelling and at times, varicose veins. And when breaks are infrequent, bladder infections brew since one can’t visit the bathroom when they need.
Long work hours during the week prevent many educators from seeing a health care provider and many health plans don’t have providers who work on the weekends. Teachers can very easily put their own health care needs on the back burner during a long school year.
Taking care of school business is paramount during the school year but parents, teachers and kids need to still put health and safety.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.