From picking out first-day-of-school outfits to reuniting with friends after a long summer, back-to-school is a period of new beginnings and happy returns to familiar routines for parents as well as children. During this transition, be sure to remember the steps you need to take to keep your little (or not-so-little) one in good health.
Learn more below, and with Dr. Oz’s Back-to-School Health Tips in this video.
For starters, confirm your child is up to date on immunizations. You can find a timeline for when children from birth to age 18 years should receive vaccinations, based on current guidelines (updated in February 2013), on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Included is a “catch-up schedule” for children who are not up-to-date on all their shots.
From early classes to after-school practices to late-night study sessions, kids are on the go for hours. But it’s especially important for young learners to get enough shut-eye. “The effects of sleep loss are mainly evident on higher cognitive functions (attention, memory, problem-solving, etc.); as a result, learning capacity and academic performance may seriously be affected,” write researchers in “Sleep loss, learning capacity, and academic performance,”published in the October 2006 issue of Sleep Medicine Reviews.
Studies have also shown that inadequate sleeps hampers the immune system’s ability to ward off illness, slows metabolism, impairs the body’s normal processing of glucose, and may interfere with the normal release of growth hormone in children. Encourage your children to wind down early, and try imposing a “screen curfew”: before bedtime, have them turn off cell phones, TVs, computers, and other illuminated devices— according to studies at the Lighting Research Center at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the light emitted from these screens can interfere with the body’s normal release of melatonin, which aids in sleep.
Back to school also means back to the cafeteria—which doesn’t always provide healthful lunch options for students. Although First Lady Michelle Obama has actively campaigned for schools to offer more nutritious foods, recent reports show some schools withdrawing from the National School Lunch Program; contact your child’s school to find out what the cafeteria offers. Or pack your child’s lunch: sandwiches on whole-grain bread, dinner leftovers, low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, and cut fresh veggie sticks.
Learn even more tips to keep your children healthy as they head back to school in this video from Dr. Oz.