It’s that time of the year again when kids will be heading back to school after a long and refreshing summer break. Since schools are hot spots for millions of germs, your child’s immune system will be put to the test. The Center for Disease Control states that children get an average of eight to 10 colds each year. To protect your child, Dr. Fatima Ali, DO, a family practice physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah East, encourages the development of healthy habits before school starts. Remember to:
Visit the doctor for regular check-ups Remind children each time they use the bathroom to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. Stay up-to-date with immunizations. Not sure? Check the online state registry for each of your children at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website (https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/immunization/wir.htm). Set proper sleep schedules Children ages 3 to 5 should get 10-13 hours of sleep per night. Children ages 6 to 13 should get 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Children ages 14+ need at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Teach children not to share food or drinks at lunch time. Check to ensure kids are brushing their teeth every night before bed time. Prioritize family meal times. They encourage communication and good nutrition.
“Having at least one meal together each day is crucial to staying up to date on your child’s school activities, friends, and emotional and mental health,” said Dr. Ali.
Limit Screen and Sitting Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to two hours a day, because children who watch more TV are more likely to have an unhealthy diet, are less likely to eat fruit, and are less likely to take part in sports or physical activity.
“Using computers and iPads has become the norm in schools,” said Dr. Ali. “Therefore, limiting non-school related screen time at home is important.” Parents should instead encourage kids to be more active in outdoor activities and school programs, adding, “Less screen time helps kids sleep better and decreases excess stimulation of the brain.”
Check Your Child’s Backpack Weight
Heavy backpacks can cause severe strain to not only your child’s spine, but to his or her neck and shoulder muscles, too. More than 92 percent of children in the United States carry backpacks that are typically loaded with 10-22 percent of their body weight, and 37 percent of children ages 11 to 14 years report back pain, the majority of whom attribute the pain to wearing a school backpack. (Timothy B. Neuschwander, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, in “Spine”)
Talk with your children about how to limit the weight they carry in their school backpacks, and occasionally remind them to clean out excess paperwork or seldom-used books.
Get To and From School Safely, Actively
Make sure the route your child takes to school is safe and there are crossing guards at every busy intersection. If at all possible, walk with your child, or arrange a neighborhood walking school bus, an arrangement where a group of children walk to school together with one or more adults. Be sure to set meeting points and times so there is a predictable schedule. A neighborhood bicycle train is also another great way to get to school safely and actively.
“Regardless of how your family gets to school, time spent together allows you to discuss and set an agenda for the day. Make it a priority to stay connected with your children,” Dr. Ali said.
Are you looking to connect with a doctor to help you and your family stay healthy this school year? Dr. Fatima Ali is now accepting patients at ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah East. Call her office directly at (920) 729-6088 to schedule an appointment or call ThedaCare On Call at (920) 830-6877 or go to www.thedacare.org and click on “Find a Doctor.”