Gearing up for school? Here's a quick run-down of preparations, depending on your child's age, to make sure your child gets a healthy start to the year.
• Visit your pediatrician to make sure your child's vaccinations are up-to-date, and obtain vision and hearing screening if possible. In addition to routine DTaP, MMR, polio and hepatitis vaccines, this year the American Academy of Pediatrics added an extra chicken pox shot and flu shot.
• Many food allergies are diagnosed incorrectly. Review any food allergies with your doctor, and consider evaluation by a pediatric allergist for specialized testing if severe allergies are suspected.
• Begin regular dental cleanings and fluoride treatments.
• Nearly 70 percent of serious playground injuries result from falls onto concrete or asphalt. Make sure your child's preschool playgrounds have cushioned surfaces such as wood chips with mulch or rubber mats (grass is not considered soft enough).
• Enquire that the preschool meets local certification requirements and the teachers pass criminal background checks.
• Obtain yearly vision screening and take a breather from vaccines until middle school. For children who are fully immunized by kindergarten, only annual flu shots for those with conditions like asthma are needed.
• Choose a comfortable, padded backpack. Remember to pack heavy items at the bottom, use both shoulder straps, and avoid over-filling. A backpack should not be more than 20 percent of a child's weight.
• Discuss any of your child's medical conditions (for example, asthma or diabetes) with your school nurse and ensure that the school has a plan to handle any emergencies.
• This is a good time to review school bus and car safety. When getting on the bus, children should always remain in view of the driver, and ideally school buses should have seat belts. Children under the age of 13 years should ideally ride in the rear seat of cars and use a booster-seat until they are 57 inches tall. Children that walk to school should wear brightly colored jackets and have crossing guards at all intersections.
• Review your child's school lunch menus critically and help make smart meal choices. In particular, avoid 12-ounces sodas, which contain 10 teaspoons of sugar and increase the risk of obesity by 60 percent for those who drink a can daily.
• Create a special workspace at home for schoolwork and limit television watching to less than two hours daily. Ensure that the area is well lit, and encourage your child to take brief breaks regularly to ease eyestrain and fatigue.
• Talk to your child about bullying at school, educate your child to be assertive and, encourage him or her to report bullying to teachers.