Ah, the smell of sunscreen. The joy of homework-free evenings. The less-scheduled family calendar…How did summer pass so quickly?
Yep, it’s time to get the kids ready for school. But wait, are your child’s immunizations up to date? Does your son need new glasses? What time should the kids go to bed? We’ve rounded up expert advice on all this and more so your family will be ready for the big day.
Schedule a well-child checkup. Make sure your child gets a physical each year. Proof of that exam is often required for participation in a school sport. Make sure your child is also up to date on all immunizations and get a copy. You may need it to prove her immunization status for school. Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Childhood Immunization Support Program website at cispimmunize.org for lots of helpful information, including: • The AAP’s 2011 Childhood Immunization Schedule (for infants through teens) and a catch-up schedule for children who may have missed a scheduled vaccination. • Updates on vaccine safety and vaccines that are temporarily in short supply. • Frequently asked questions about childhood immunizations.Have your child’s vision checked. Basic vision screening should be performed by your child’s doctor at each well-child examination. If a child fails a vision screening, or if there is any concern about a vision problem, she should be referred for a comprehensive professional eye exam, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). For children who wear glasses, the AAO recommends one-piece wrap-around polycarbonate sports frames for contact sports.Schedule a dental checkup. Students in the U.S. miss more than 51 million school hours per year because of dental problems, says the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Teach your child to floss daily and brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. And visit your child’s dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning and checkup.Have your child’s hearing tested. Most states now mandate hearing tests for infants. But many school-age children haven’t been tested. If your child is listening to the television or music at a very loud volume, or tends to favor one ear over the other when listening to you speak, it may be a sign of hearing loss. Get her tested.Communicate about medications. Does your child receive medication on a regular basis for diabetes, asthma, or another chronic health problem? School nurses and teachers must be made aware of your child’s needs, especially if they are the ones who will administer the medicine. Speak with them about the prescribed medication schedule, and work out an emergency course of action in case of a problem.Schedule testing if you suspect a learning disability or dyslexia. If you feel your child may not be processing information as she should, speak with her teacher and her doctor as soon as possible. Your child’s doctor can provide a referral for testing.Plan ahead for brain-power breakfasts. Studies show that children who eat breakfast are more alert in class. Try to include protein (peanut butter or low-fat cheese, milk or yogurt are good choices), fruit, and whole grains. Drink more water. A 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60 percent. Restrict your child’s soft-drink consumption to special occasions.Update emergency phone numbers. Are your current emergency phone numbers on file at school? Make sure the school and your child know how to reach you or another caregiver at all times.If your child has a cell phone, talk with him about when and where it can be used safely. Chatting on a cell phone or texting while walking or biking to school can be dangerous. Explain to your child the importance of paying attention to his surroundings and being aware of cars and bikes. Set a good example by not using a cell phone (even a hands-free model) while driving.Choose the right backpack — and use it safely. Look for wide, padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps can dig into shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation. A padded back increases comfort. The backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Remind your child to always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles and may increase the chances of developing curvature of the spine. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. Even better: Use a rolling backpack. MP— Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist who frequently covers children’s-health issues. Visit her blog @ badballet.com.