Parents can improve kids' health during school year

2013-09-15T09:00:00Z 2013-09-17T12:45:12Z Parents can improve kids' health during school yearCarrie Rodovich Times Correspondent
September 15, 2013 9:00 am  • 

Although nothing can completely prevent your child from getting sick during the school year, experts agree there are things parents can do to keep them as healthy as possible while school is in session.

Experts agree it is important for school-aged children to get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of fluids and have limited access to television and electronics. Experts say it is important to have a good relationship with your child’s pediatrician.

Dr. Shah Chowdhury, a pediatrician with Franciscan Medical Specialists, said school-aged children should drink at least six glasses of water a day. Dr. Chowdhury said carbonated beverages and fruit juice should be avoided.

“If they are in a hot environment, or under the sun, they need an additional two or three glasses,” he said. “If they are playing sports, they need to drink sports drinks, which contain electrolytes.”

He also suggested eating three meals, plus three snacks, daily. 

“The food should include fruits, vegetables, salad, meat, fish, eggs and milk,” he said. “At least once or twice a week, fish consumption and seafood intake is good.”

Physical activity, combined with limited, monitored media usage is important.

“All students should have a habit of doing physical activity at least two hours a day. One hour of this should be strenuous activity,” he said. 

Children should also make sure to wear sunscreen with at least an SPF of 35, either outside for sports activities or for recess, he said.

Sleep is also important, with school-aged children needing nine hours of sleep a night. 

“Sleep is a growth-promoting factor,” Chowdhury said. “Daytime naps should be avoided.”

Registered nurse Tracy Tucker said the National Association of School Nurses recommends taking your child for a check-up with their pediatrician before the school year begins. 

Healthcare experts agree it is important to have a vaccine discussion with your child’s pediatrician because vaccination requirements and recommendations can change from year to year.

Dr. Geraldine Feria, who is on the medical staff at Porter Regional Hospital and sees patients at Wanatah Primary Care, said it is also important to talk to your child’s pediatrician about what diseases are currently experiencing outbreaks and to make sure your child gets a flu shot.

“If you’re vaccinated, you’re protected from the major diseases like measles and chicken pox that are starting to go around again,” she said. “There is a slim chance you might contract them, but they would be in milder forms with less complications.”

Tucker said is also important to have a good relationship with the school nurse, and let the nurse know about your child’s medications or mental health needs, Tucker said. It is also important to let the school nurse know if your child has contracted a contagious or communicable disease.

“You should also talk to your school nurse about the recommended and required immunizations for school admittance and attendance,” she said. 

It is also important to keep your child’s emergency contact information at school current, and know what your school’s safety plan is in case of emergencies, Tucker said. 

Feria said head lice is another common problem many schools have, and while it can’t be completely prevented, there are things students can do minimize risk.

“Some parents might send their child to school not even realizing their child has it,” Feria said. “Kids shouldn’t share brushes, combs or hats because that is an easy way to transfer lice.

If a child does contract head lice, the entire family, as well as people who come in close contact with the child, should be treated with an over-the-counter product. If lice persist after two over-the-counter treatments, a doctor can prescribe a stronger solution.

Feria said it is important to teach children how to remain as germ-free as possible. 

She suggested not sharing food or cups, and avoiding water fountains. She also suggested washing hands or using hand sanitizer as often as possible.

Children also should be taught to sneeze into their elbow and not into their hands, she said.

“Whenever possible, it’s best for students to not share personal items with each other, especially items you put in your mouth,” she said.

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