OAKHURST – With kids getting ready to head back to school all across the mountain area, Kaiser Permanente has put together the ABCs for a healthy and successful school year.
The recommendations include “A list of immunizations,” “Begin to get more rest,” “Cut out junk food,” and “Deal with stress.”
According to Naomi Jacobs, M.D., a Pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in Fresno, it doesn’t matter if your child is heading into kindergarten or their senior year in high school. Preparation is the key. She recommends starting with a doctor’s check-up and to make sure your big or little one is up to date on immunizations.
“That will ensure that the year ahead is a healthy and productive one for your young scholar,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Children who miss school because of illness often fall behind and have a hard time catching up to the rest of the class. Making sure your child has the proper immunizations can protect him or her from common childhood diseases and other contagious illnesses throughout the school year.”
Most school-aged children receive several vaccinations at ages 4 or 5, just before entering kindergarten, assuming you don’t “opt out” by signing the back of the immunization card.
Some parents may be uncomfortable with multiple immunizations during one visit. If that’s the case, they can talk to their doctor about ways to break up the vaccination series, if that’s what they prefer and can afford.
“Students entering 7th grade also must also have a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) booster shot before entering school,” continues Dr. Jacobs. “A Tdap vaccination protects against whooping cough, a highly-contagious bacterial disease that can cause children to make a whooping sound as they gasp for breath.”
A local outbreak of whooping cough a few years ago had kids and parents of all ages rushing to their local doctors, as the illness spreads quickly and is especially dangerous for small kids and babies.
“Other immunizations can protect against chicken pox, Hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps and Human Papillomavirus (HPV),” Dr. Jacobs says. She also suggests a flu vaccine – available starting in mid-to-late October – could potentially prevent children from catching the flu, which is also highly contagious, and could help ward off outbreaks at school sites.
Moving on down the alphabet, Kaiser tells us that the letter “B” stands for “Begin to get more rest.” It’s been a long summer and kids have been playing hard, staying up late and are often not on a regular schedule of the sort that makes getting up early in the morning easy.
“Children need at least eight to ten hours of sleep a night,” Dr. Jacobs states, which is usually much less than kids get when reality intervenes. “Some may have a hard time adjusting to the early morning start of school, so it’s a good idea to get them used to waking up early now.”
She reminds parents and caregivers to encourage kids to set an alarm so they are waking up at the same time every day, suggesting that a restful night’s sleep will lead to a more focused student with dividends both immediate and down the road.
The letter “C” is brought to you by the sentence, “Cut out the junk food!”
“A healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables through the day will help children stay fit, trim and keep them energized.”
It’s especially important – though not always easy — to start the day with a healthy breakfast of protein and carbs which can reduce the urge to snack later on less nutritious items such as chips and cookies and gummy what-have-you.
“Children also need a healthy lunch to sustain them throughout the school day. One of the most important things parents need to watch for when packing a school lunch is avoiding foods that are high in sugar.”
Kaiser encourages parents to pack a bottle of water rather than juice or soda and to make sandwiches using whole-grain breads and to opt for low or non-fat dairy products.
A healthy lunch doesn’t necessarily need to come from home. Many school cafeterias are now offering healthier options such as salad bars, fresh fruit and foods lower in sodium or fat.”
Finally we come to the letter “D” and it’s a doozey: “Deal with stress.”
“For some students, the school year may bring on stress as they face new teachers, classmates and, in some cases, a new school. Stress can be normal, but if it happens too often or lasts too long, it can lead to health problems such as headaches, an upset stomach, back pain and trouble sleeping.”
Stress can also make people moody, depressed or tense. Dr. Jacobs says we should talk to our kids about how they are feeling as they get closer to starting school.
“Teach them time management techniques,” the doctor offers. “Help them to unwind with a hobby or a good book. Offer to work through problems together. If they are unwilling or uncomfortable speaking with you, suggest they talk to a school counselor or find a professional for them to see.”
Skipping halfway down the alphabet, SNO wants to remind you to use the letter “L” liberally: give them lots of love and then give yourself a little break, too. Kids aren’t the only ones who feel the stress of back to school. Parents also need good health, good habits, good hobbies and good friends.
Have a safe, happy and healthy school year.
For more information on ways to keep your children healthy and active throughout the school year, visit the KP website.