With school out for the summer, focusing on your kids’ health probably consisted of making sure they stayed injury-free while out and about. Now that school’s about to start again, there are some other health issues you should watch for.
It probably feels like summer break just started. That’s usually the case, especially for the kids and teachers! But the reality is: A new school year is quickly approaching.
And with the COVID-19 pandemic not quite in our rearview mirror yet, sending the kids back to school is a little more worrisome than usual for many parents.
Gregory Mitchell, MD, family medicine physician and pediatric specialist with West Tennessee Medical Group, has some insight for parents who want to pay a little closer attention to their kids’ health this year. Read on to get the details!
Kids’ Health Issues Parents Should Be Aware Of
Many health conditions, including both illnesses and injuries, are more common for kids when school is in session. It makes sense if you think about it.
When kids are at home for summer, their interactions with others are more limited. When they return to school, they’re spending a great deal more time in close contact with other children. Add increased activity into the mix, and that increases the risk of injuries, too.
As you get your kids ready to go back to school, here are a few kids’ health issues to keep top of mind:
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, viruses are probably already on your radar. But when it comes to viruses, COVID-19 is only the tip of the iceberg.
In fact, since mask mandates were dropped earlier this year and more people began venturing out in public frequently, there’s been a rapid increase in cases of nearly all viral infections. This includes the coronavirus, but also includes the flu, the common cold, and RSV. Strep throat, which is a bacterial infection, is also on the uptick.
There was a decrease in these illnesses while most people were wearing masks, staying at home more frequently and taking other health precautions. In the absence of those precautions, these illnesses are on the rise.
Masks are not required in most school settings this fall, but you can take other steps to help protect your kids. Make sure they know how to properly wash their hands—and when to do so. Remind them of the importance of not sharing foods or personal items. Coach them to keep their distance from others when they’re able, especially if another student or teacher seems to be sick.
If your child seems under the weather, you also play an important role in stopping the potential spread of viral illness. Don’t send your child to school or activities where he or she will be around others when sick.
Yes, we know: Your first thought is probably “ick.” Nobody wants to think about lice.
But schools are the most common source of lice transmissions, with preschool and elementary school age children the most frequently infected. Each year, up to 12 million cases of lice occur in children ages 3 to 12.
Head lice are parasitic insects that feed on human blood and live along the scalp. While they don’t spread disease, they cause intense itching and discomfort.
Lice move from one person’s head to another through direct contact, though it is also possible (but much less common) for lice to spread through the sharing of hats, scarves, or towels that come into contact with the scalp.
Teach your kids to avoid any head-to-head contact with others outside your household. It’s also a good idea not to share personal items, including sports helmets or brushes.
The start of a new year also brings the start of a new sports season for many kids. And that means an influx of sports-related injuries.
Injuries can occur acutely in both practice and games, and they can also occur over time in the form of overuse injuries.
Help your children steer clear of injury by preparing him or her ahead of time for the season. Step one? Have your kids undergo a sports physical, a specialized type of medical visit designed to help ensure your young athletes are ready to take the field or court.
It’s also important to make sure your kids have the right type of sport-specific safety equipment, that the equipment is well-fitting, and that they’re learning correct form and technique for all movements, especially those that involve contact with others.
As a parent, it’s important to know and recognize the signs of concussion. Any head injury should be treated with caution.
During the summer months, your kids probably stay up later at night and wake up later in the morning. That’s totally normal. But it’s important to hit the reset button on sleep as they head back to school.
We often think of sleep problems as being an adult health issue, but a lack of quality sleep plagues children, too. Not getting enough sleep at night can make kids more likely to get sick, and sleep deficiency also diminishes the ability to concentrate and learn.
Many children don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school-age children get between nine and 11 hours of sleep each night.
Set your child’s bedtime based on that recommendation. Starting with the time he or she will need to wake up to get ready for school, count backward to the necessary bedtime.
You might not think of being bullied as a health issue, but it really is. Physical bullying can obviously harm physical health, but any type of bullying plays a significant role in a child’s mental and emotional health.
This is true both when the bullying occurs and for months or even years afterward. Children and teens who are bullied are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression, academic problems and substance abuse later in life.
What can you do as a parent about bullying? Familiarize yourself with the common signs that a child is being bullied. Signs of bullying can include sleep problems or frequent nightmares, the avoidance of previously enjoyed activities or social situations, lost or destroyed personal items, headaches or GI issues and unexplained injuries.
If you believe your child is being bullied, talk with a counselor and his or her pediatrician. They can help you determine your next steps if bullying is taking place.
Does your child need a school or sports physical as the new school year gets underway? West Tennessee Medical Group University Medicine offers school/sports physical clinics. Call (731) 423-1932 for more details.