Every year, as soon as the Lake County Fair comes to town — and the Porter County Fair ends — a new school year is nearly upon us. This means a lot of things, including the need for a clean bill of health for incoming students.
At the top of the list should be awareness and preparedness for the new state immunization requirements for school children beginning this fall. Parents should be reading up on these new requirements and consulting with their local health departments or pediatricians to ensure these health safeguards are followed.
For the coming school year, all students in kindergarten through 12th grade are required to have documents proving they have received two valid doses of the chickenpox vaccine — or documented history of having already recovered from the disease itself.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade need their chickenpox disease history documented by a health care provider.
And the state health department's chief medical officer recommends vaccinations for hepatitis A, flu, HPV and a meningitis booster. Most family physicians are aware of these recommendations and can assist with any questions.
Consult the full list of immunization requirements at the health department's website, www.state.in.us/isdh/17094.htm.
Ensuring proper immunizations of your children has many benefits to the learning process.
Healthy, immunized children won't contract and carry these diseases into the school, subjecting other children to the fallout. Healthy children also miss fewer school days because of sickness. Such absences put children behind — something that is particularly important to avoid early in the school year.
And don't forget that your children share the school facilities with other children, some of whom are too young or who have medical prohibitions to receiving the vaccinations. The best way to keep the most vulnerable students away from disease exposure is for those children who can and should be vaccinated to receive such treatment.
There is more to a healthful beginning to a school year than proper immunizations.
Many children are likely accustomed to the later hours summer vacation offers. Most school administrators and health-care providers recommend parents begin putting their children back on a school-year curfew and sleep schedule in advance of the first day of school. It gives children a chance to acclimate and hit the ground running when the first bell rings.
Carving out time for reading each day and setting limits on video games and television might not be a bad idea either.
The first days and weeks of school can set the tone for the rest of the school year. Help your children succeed by ensuring they go in with healthy habits and proper medical preparedness.