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Our health tips to tackle the new school year!

By Health Quest  |  8/8/2019

It's that time of year again to dust off the alarm clock, hunt down those school supplies and reinstate routines. We know the excitement — and anxieties — that come with going back to school. To help parents, Health Quest staff offer these tips to ensure your children have a successful school year.

HEALTH AND WELLNESS

Christina Mezzone, HQMP pediatrician

"While most parents are thinking about backpack shopping, new bus routes and sports sign-ups for the back-to-school season, preparing for a healthy school year is even more important. Check out these quick tips for getting kids health-ready:"

Tips on physical and mental health:

  • Schedule a physical exam and bring sports release forms requiring a physician's signature, if needed.
  • If your child has an allergy, obtain necessary forms from the school prior to your doctor's visit.
  • Ensure your child's immunization records are up-to-date and filed with the school before the first day.
  • Transport any medication your child takes to school prior to the first day in the original labeled container along with physician's instructions. Medications require written authorization from a doctor as well as parental consent.
  • Familiarize yourself with your child's school, teachers and bus driver. Be your child's advocate by opening up communication.
  • Plan ahead for after-school childcare, if needed.
  • Learn the signs of and how to talk to your child about bullying, including cyberbullying.
  • Ease first-day jitters by attending school-planned events such as orientations and tours, and/or doing a practice run to and from school.
  • Review good hand-hygiene habits, especially washing with soap before lunch and after using the bathroom.
  • Set ground rules for device usage on school days.

NUTRITION

Indrani Dhar, Supervisor of Clinical Nutrition, Putnam Hospital Center

"Good, healthy habits and physical activity are the magic pills everyone is looking for right under our noses, especially this time of year. Farmers markets, local farms and grocery stores have an abundance of produce and locally made specialty products without chemicals or additives. It is very important to eat as little processed packaged foods as possible."

Tips on eating:

  • Make it a habit and a priority to eat healthy, whole foods.
  • Plan meals, shop, cook and eat with your children.
  • Prepare school lunches the night before.
  • Combine a protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat with every meal and snack.
  • Model healthy eating habits.
  • Remember the foundation for healthy eating habits starts early in life.

Lunch and snack ideas for home and school:

  • Pita sandwiches, wraps, salads and vegetable pizza.
  • Grilled chicken, chili, baked potato and sweet potato.
  • Guacamole, salsa and hummus with pita chips and raw vegetables and yogurt dip.
  • Fresh fruit and cheese, Greek yogurt and fresh berries, assorted nuts and trail mix.

SLEEP HYGIENE

Dr. Mohammed Aziz, Medical Director, Putnam Hospital Center Sleep Laboratory

"Sleep is your body's way of refueling for another day. However, many Americans — and children — are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. This lack of sleep doesn't just make you feel tired the next day; it can ultimately lead to poor health."

Did you know?

  • Adequate sleep is necessary for the brain to function properly.
  • Permanent memories form only during good sleep.
  • Proper sleep causes good hormone changes that lead to growth in height.
  • The right amount of sleep helps in avoiding becoming overweight.
  • Good nighttime sleep habits help in the daytime learning process.
  • Many diseases become worse if adequate sleep is lacking.

Tips for good sleep:

  • Pick a consistent bedtime and waking time.
  • Daytime nap should be short (20 minutes only).
  • Sleep should be about 12 hours for preschoolers, about 10 hours for children and about 8 hours for adults.
  • Room should be cool, dark and quiet.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, exercise and video games a few hours prior to sleep.
  • Do not do any work or play in bed.

BACKPACK SAFETY

Matthew Kriniske, Director of Rehabilitation Services, Putnam Hospital Center

"As we all eagerly anticipate the start of another school year, it is time once again to take a look at our children's backpacks. We need to make sure they are an appropriate size and fit and packed appropriately before we send them out the door. As they go throughout their day, it is important their backpacks do not put any additional strain on their growing and developing bodies."

When loading a backpack, be aware of the following:

  • Backpacks should not weigh more than 10 percent of a child's body weight. That means a child weighing 100 pounds should not have a backpack loaded heavier than 10 pounds.
  • Arrange books and materials closest to a child's back (back of the pack) and so they will not slide around.
  • If backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, have your child hand carry an item or two.
  • Monitor what is brought back and forth to school; you may find there are unnecessary items packed.

When wearing a backpack, be mindful of the following:

  • Distribute weight evenly by wearing both straps. If a backpack is consistently worn over one shoulder, this may cause the child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
  • Choose a backpack with well-padded straps. There are many blood vessels and nerves in children's shoulders and neck. Too much pressure in this area may cause pain or tingling in the neck, arms or hands.
  • The backpack should fit snugly against the child's back. Adjust the straps and if there is a waist belt, use it. This helps to evenly distribute the weight of the backpack.
  • The bottom of the backpack should rest at the curve of the back and never below the child's waistline.