Back-to-School Part One: Start the School Year in Good Health

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While you’re chasing down backpacks, binders and back-to-school shoes, make time for these important to-dos and set your child up for a healthy year.

Annual physical exams. A yearly visit gives your child’s doctor a chance to assess and record your child’s developmental, emotional and social health. It’s an important touch point for sharing information about everything from growth to sleep to eating habits and keeping vaccinations current.

Some schools offer on-campus physical exams to clear students to play school sports. While these exams may be convenient, they should not replace an annual appointment with your child’s pediatrician.

“Yearly wellness checks allow parents and providers to create a team approach to a child’s health care,” says Torah Tomasi, M.D., a Martin’s Point Health Care pediatrician. “They give also us a better view of progress and development, so we can better understand what is normal for your child and detect any issues that may be emerging.”

If you haven’t already established a regular time for an annual exam, call for an appointment today. (Then add a reminder on your calendar to set up next year’s appointment to help you stay on track.)

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Vaccinations. State law dictates , with limited exceptions, thatchildren who attend all public and most private schools provide evidence of receiving all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Legality aside, keeping your child’s immunizations up to date is an important safeguard against potentially dangerous diseases, from chicken pox to meningitis.

“Vaccines are one of the best defenses we have against serious, preventable diseases – diseases that most of today’s parents have never seen,” says Tomasi. “Vaccines help individuals and families stay healthy, and help protect communities by reducing the spread of diseases.”

Many of the recommended immunizations for school age children are completed by age 7. Another set is indicated for middle schoolers between ages 11 and 12, plus a meningitis booster for kids in their late teens. Fall is also time for influenza vaccines for all ages – and many schools make this easy with free clinics.

For a complete picture of your child’s needs, refer to these recommendations for 0 to 6 years and 7 to 18 years.

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Medications. If your child needs medication during the school day, you have a little extra homework. It might help to think of it in steps:

  • Get sign off. In most cases, parents need to provide written consent and authorization from their child’s doctor for a child to be given medication at school. Find out your school’s requirements now, and complete any required forms.
  • Provide essential information. Make sure any medication you send goes in the original container and is labelled with:
    • Your child’s name
    • Medication name
    • How much to give and how often to give it
    • How to administer the medication
    • Your child’s pediatrician’s name
    • The prescription date and expiration date
  • Double up at the pharmacy. Have your pharmacist divide medication into two bottles – each labelled – so you can send one to school.
  • Plan ahead. Talk with your school administrators about how to handle medications during field trips and other outings, and mark your calendar to remind yourself to replenish the school supply of your child’s medication as needed.

If your child is college-bound, connect with health center staff to find out what they need from you, how to handle prescription refills and whether other university staff (like a resident advisor) should be aware of your child’s situation. Before your child leaves home, talk about potential side effects of any medication, including how it may interact with alcohol.

If you have questions on any of these points, give your child’s doctor a call. Otherwise, follow the checklist below to make your way through these tasks, and you can be confident you’ve given your student a healthy send off.

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