To Your Health: Back-to-school checklist

For many school-aged children, summer break is coming to an end soon. The new school year is just around the corner. For parents, it’s time to get that checklist ready, the one that makes sure your child gets off to a good, healthy start in the classroom.

The following are top things to know to help get your child ready for the first day of school:

Schedule a checkup

Don’t wait too long to make an appointment with your pediatrician. Appointments tend to fill up fast as the first day of school approaches with requests for sports physicals, immunization updates and annual checkups.

A back-to-school checkup is an ideal time for your child’s physician to conduct a thorough physical exam and address any health concerns, including any ongoing condition such as diabetes, asthma or allergies as well as special dietary needs and medications.

Update immunizations

Remember, children are required to have received certain vaccinations to attend school or child care in California. It’s important to stay informed about school immunization requirements because of recent changes. A new state law took effect this year eliminating personal and religious belief exemptions to school immunization requirements. Exemptions are allowed but only for children with valid medical conditions such as an immune system disorder.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a time to discuss the importance of vaccinations. Talk to your pediatrician about any vaccine concerns or visit physician-recommended websites such as www.shotsforschool.org or http://www.sdiz.org/, which are run by California and San Diego County health departments respectively and contain frequently asked questions about immunization school-entry requirements in the state.

“Parents should not lose sight of the diseases that vaccinations protect their children against,” said Nicholas Levy, M.D., pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Encinitas. “Vaccines prepare the immune system to recognize and fight serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases,” he said.

Vaccination requirements vary by age.

Immunizations required to attend kindergarten and transitional kindergarten:

Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP, DTP, or DT)

Polio

Hepatitis B

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)

Varicella (Chickenpox)

Immunizations required to start 7th grade:

Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap)

Measles (MMR)

Other recommended childhood and adolescent immunizations:

One dose against meningococcal disease (brain or blood infection) at age 11 or 12 and a booster dose at age 16 years

Yearly immunization against flu (influenza)

The human papillomavirus (HPV) 3 shot series

Get back to school schedule

Staying up late and sleeping in are OK during the summer – until it’s time to prepare to return into the classroom. A transition period is strongly advised.

Do yourself a favor and encourage your child to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier several days before classes start. Make time for a healthy breakfast so by the time school starts, your child will be used to the change in routine.

Dr. Levy recommends enforcing bedtime rules four to five days before the first day of school.

“Waking up early without getting enough sleep is not a good way to start the school day,” Dr. Levy said. “For many students, especially high school students, this is a critical period when they are looking to meet requirements to get into the college of their choice.”

Recommended hours of sleep vary according to age. For children ages 6 to 12, it’s nine to 12 hours and for 13 to 18-year-olds, it’s eight to 10 hours, according to some physicians.

Reduce back-to-school anxiety

Feeling anxious is normal, even expected, during any period of significant change. In the days leading up to the start of classes, your child may feel worried about getting used to new teachers, making new friends or just fitting into a new classroom environment.

Listen to your child’s concerns and work on developing a plan together to handle situations. Dr. Levy recommends one simple strategy to reduce back-to-school anxiety. Plan for your child and a friend who is entering the same grade to meet outside the school so that they can walk in together, he said.

“This can alleviate a lot of stress,” Dr. Levy said.

“To Your Health” is brought to you by the physicians and staff at Scripps Health. For more information or to make an appointment, please visit www.scripps.org/CNP or call (858) 207-4317.

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