My segment on KTLA got me thinking about back to school. This year both of my kids start school after Labor Day, but I know that many of my patients start sooner. No matter when your children go back to school, it’s time to start thinking about back packs, school supplies, sneakers and …a back to school health check. Here are a few questions parents have recently asked me about sending their child back to school.
- Does my child need a back to school check up if they are healthy?
Yes. All school aged children need a yearly physical and back to school is the perfect time to schedule a complete exam if you haven’t had one in the past year. I often pick up illness and disease at routine physicals such as heart murmurs, vision problems, scoliosis and high cholesterol before they become serious.
Your pediatrician will also make sure that your child is up to date on vaccines, is growing well, eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep. In addition to disease and illness, there are other critical issues such as sleep troubles, behavior problems, school failure and injury prevention that can affect your child’s health and should be discussed with his doctor on a regular basis.
- Last year we got lice (twice!). Is there any way to prevent catching lice?
Lice aren’t dangerous, but can be very annoying. Lice don’t jump or fly across the classroom, but they can crawl so try to avoid head to head contact while playing and doing sports. Teach your children not to share hats, brushes, scarves, head bands or anything that touches your head. And since they crawl, hang up jackets and hats instead of throwing them in a pile with the rest of the class. If your child complains of itching, or you notice little bumps or a rash at the base of her scalp or behind her ears check for lice or ask your school nurse or doctor. There are several over the counter and prescription shampoos that can be used if (or when) needed to help get rid of the pesky lice.
- What is the max amount of TV, video game, computer, I pad, etc that my child should watch or play on school days?
The American Academy of pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours a day of screen time, but I prefer even less. I applaud families that have a no media on school day rules, which provides plenty of time for homework, playing sports or just being active and spending quality time with your family. You can TiVo your favorite, age appropriate show and watch as a family on the weekend. If you do have screen time during the week, I encourage families to have an electronic curfew–an hour before bedtime, all electronics turn off. And TV, video games and computers don’t belong in the bedroom. Keep them in a central location for safety and so they don’t interfere with sleep.
- My child tends to get very nervous the first day of school. What can I do to help?
It’s very normal to feel nervous the first day of school. Meeting new friends or getting reacquainted with classmates can feel overwhelming. Remind your child that everyone is in the same boat, and encourage her to say hello to a new classmates and reintroduce herself to somebody she recognizes from last year. If it’s not too late, consider arranging a play date or neighborhood bbq before school begins so she can spend time with future classmates. The day before school starts, help her pack her bag, pick out her outfit and take a practice walk or drive to school and even find her class. This will help her feel more comfortable on the first day and ensure she gets to class on time.