From Sleep to Shots, Back-to-School Health Tips from Mayo Clinic Experts
Aug 15, 2013 - 11:13:19 AM
Robert Jacobson, M.D., Mayo Clinic Children's Center pediatrician and vaccine specialist, advises parents to ensure their child has recommended vaccinations and be aware of changes to those recommendations. For example, children can now be vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV), at age 11, rather than having to wait until they are 16 years of age. This change will make it easier for busy children to get their three doses of the vaccine within the recommended six months.
Some vaccines are now more easily administered, Dr. Jacobson says: "We've combined the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine with the chickenpox vaccine so a single dose will cover all four of those diseases."
In addition, the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis combination, often called the D-TaP shot and given to children 6 years of age and under, can be given to new students at the same time, along with the final dose of the polio vaccine. Dr. Jacobson suggests that parents contact their family physician or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's online registry to stay informed of the recommended school admission vaccine requirements for their child.
Getting enough sleep is critical to students' well-being and ability to learn, says Suresh Kotagal, M.D., pediatric sleep expert at Mayo Clinic Children's Center. Adapting healthy sleep habits prior to the start of school could help students get the required rest they need. Dr. Kotagal suggests establishing a bedtime routine to help children fall asleep and get a good night's rest. He adds that children rest better if they skip caffeine after dinner, get regular exercise, turn off electronic devices an hour before bedtime, and silence phones so text messages or alerts don't disrupt sleep. In addition, imposing an early bedtime on the weekends will make Monday mornings easier to deal with.
It's important for children to develop healthy eating and snacking habits at an early age to help avoid obesity. Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician at Mayo Clinic, recommends having a variety of healthy snacks on hand so children can learn to make good choices. She suggests having "anytime" snacks easily available for children, such as storing healthy snacks in a designated area that children know they can eat when they are hungry without having to ask permission. These options allow children to feel empowered and helps them practice making healthy choices, Zeratsky says.
A new year at school can be an exciting yet stressful time, especially for students starting kindergarten or entering middle school.
"Students who feel anxious about going back to school need to be reassured that their feelings are normal," says Stephen Whiteside, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center. "It's important for students to talk about what is bothering them and to get comfortable with the things that are causing the nervousness."
Dr. Whiteside encourages students to practice doing whatever makes them anxious - such as opening their locker or finding their classrooms - until they learn through experience that the task is not as frightening as they thought.
"Regular dental exams are an important part of preventive health care," says Thomas Salinas, D.D.S., a dental specialist at Mayo Clinic. "Students who brush their teeth, gums and tongue twice per day can reduce their risk of infection."
Dr. Salinas recommends that students practice healthy dental habits daily and visit the dentist for a cleaning twice a year.
Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of "the needs of the patient come first." More than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers, and 50,100 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Rochester, Minn; Jacksonville, Fla; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz.; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education, visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.
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