Making sure your child is back-to-school ready involves more than shopping for school supplies and buying the next size up in shoes. Help prep your child to stay healthy going into and throughout the school year with sleep tips, how to cope with stress, choosing healthy foods, immunizations and much more.
To kick-start the school year right, consider these health tips.
Get plenty of sleep
Consistent sleep schedules can help children get better, quality rest. At least eight hours of sleep is associated with healthier body composition, lower risk of heart disease and helps your child perform better in school and boosts their immune system.
Monitor your child for signs they might be stressed out or could use extra support
- Emotional outbursts or increased irritability that are inconsistent with previous behavior.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Withdrawing from others, like friends and family.
- Struggles with school, such as a change in performance or not focusing.
- Increased defiance, like feelings of anger or stubborn behaviors.
“If you identify any of these changes, consult your pediatrician and discuss healthy ways to support and improve anxiety or stress in your child,” said Dr. Christopher Ordonez, pediatrician with Marshfield Children’s.
Include healthy foods in their diet
Daily balanced meals and healthy foods are important for keeping kids alert and keeping their bodies strong.
“Try not to use food as a reward when encouraging kids to eat. Promising dessert to a child for eating vegetables, for example, sends the message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert,” Dr. Ordonez said. “Buy fewer soft drinks and high fat and high calorie snack foods like chips, cookies and candy. While snacks are OK once in a while, keep healthy snack foods on hand and offer them often.”
Healthy snacks children can munch on at home or bring to school include fresh or frozen fruit, small amounts of dried fruits like raisins, apple rings or apricots, fresh vegetables like baby carrots, cucumbers or tomatoes and low-fat yogurt with fruit.
Healthy drink choices, like water and milk, can help prevent fatigue, improve mood and enhance brain function.
Avoid sugary drinks like soda or sports drinks. An excess of sugar and caffeine can increase heart rates, blood pressure, interrupt sleep and cause irritability.
Practice healthy hygiene habits
The best way to avoid spreading germs is proper hand washing. Wash the fronts and backs of hands and in-between fingers. Hand sanitizer also will work when soap and water aren’t available.
Teach children to cough or sneeze into their elbow or sleeve, to avoid spreading germs onto others.
Stay up-to-date on immunizations
Immunization schedules help provide children with immunity early in life.
“This helps them to be protected from diseases that spread easily among peers in group settings. This could cause serious health problems and life-threatening diseases,” Dr. Ordonez said.
Your provider will know what vaccines your child needs and at what time. Common immunizations they will want to stay current on include influenza, tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and varicella (chickenpox).
Stay current on well-child visits and routine sports physicals
If you are looking for advice on any of these topics, your child’s primary care provider is a great resource. An annual check-up with your pediatrician also helps ensure your child is healthy and up-to-date on immunizations.
“Well-child visits allow your provider to work with the family as a team to examine the child holistically, assess their physical and emotional needs, support their growth and development and intervene quickly if any issues arise,” Dr. Ordonez said.
Sports physicals are another important addition to routine appointments. Physicals give providers the opportunity to catch potentially life-threatening health problems that can be worsened by sports activity. Providers can assess how student athletes are doing health-wise, regardless of whether they feel or notice symptoms.