The Delaware Division of Public Health shared tips to keep children healthier and safer during the new school year:
— Wellness checks: Beginning at age 2, children and adolescents need an annual wellness check-up that includes a physical examination. The health care provider will screen the child's overall health, including vision and hearing. Immunizations are often given during these appointments.
— Visit the dentist: Back to school time is an opportunity to get kids ready for a year of oral health. Remember to set up dental appointments along with other routine check-ups. Wake up a few minutes earlier on school days to allow kids enough time to brush their teeth before the rush to the bus. Be on the lookout for permission slips allowing children to participate in school-based oral health programs partnering with his or her school.
— Immunizations: People know that vaccines including tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis; measles; mumps and rubella; hepatitis B; polio; and varicella; are required to enter kindergarten but most don’t know that a Tdap booster and the meningococcal vaccine are required for entry to ninth-grade. The HPV vaccine series is also recommended starting at age 9. For a list of required immunizations, visit bit.ly/2wXH7Wx or call 800-282-8672.
— Ease into the routine: Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practicing a routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through morning rituals and get in the car or to the bus stop on time. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid school routine will make the first day of school go smoother. Work through anxious feelings about back-to-school. Children pick up on spoken and unspoken anxiety. The more relaxed parents are about school, the more relaxed kids will be. Put the family on a routine and emphasize sleep. For bedtime, focus on relaxation and sleep will follow.
— Healthy lunches: Pack nutritious lunches with protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and water or nonfat milk. Get recipe inspiration at choosemyplate.gov. To prevent foodborne illness, pack lunches in insulated coolers with ice packs to keep food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less, and follow the food safety advice at this link at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/bam/nutrition/power-packing.html. So children do not skip school meals, parents should complete and return school breakfast and lunch forms and send back-up lunch money the first few days. After school, provide kids with healthy snacks.
— Backpack weight: Keep backpacks light. Most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10-15 percent of their body weight in their backpacks. Children should wear backpacks over both shoulders to reduce the risk of muscle and neck strains or injuries.
— Reflective tape: Buy outer clothes and backpacks with reflective tape so bus drivers and other motorists can easily see children at bus stops, or walking and bicycling to and from school.
— Mark personal items: In case backpacks or coats are accidentally left at school or on the bus, mark students’ personal items with their name and phone number. Make sure to write the information on the inside of items, instead of outside for the child’s safety.
— Bus safety: Parents should review bus information with their children. Write down the bus driver's name, bus number, driver phone number and the pickup and drop-off times and locations. Keep that information at home and also include it in the child's backpack for their reference.
— Pedestrian safety: Teach children to use crosswalks and obey traffic signals, highway signs, and laws. Map out safe routes to and from school. Remind children never to accept rides, candy or other invitations from strangers. Trustworthy adults should accompany younger children.
— Protect their skin: Students regularly go outside for recess, gym and sports practices. To prevent skin cancer, cream-based sunscreens 30 sun protection factor or higher, are recommended. Parents are encouraged to apply sunscreen daily before kids head off to school. If parents want it applied at school for recess, field trips or late-day activities, please discuss this with the school nurse. Parents must provide written permission and the sunscreen. Older children participating in after-school sports should pack a tube of sunscreen in their sports bags, along with water for hydration and a high-protein or high-energy snack.
— Don’t forget the bug spray: Mosquitoes can spread illnesses and give itchy bites. Spray children’s clothing with Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents containing permethrin. As with sunscreen, parents are encouraged to apply insect repellent at home daily through the fall months and follow product instructions.
For more, visit kidshealth.org/en/parents.