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Family Health Author: NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:11:01 PM

The Ultimate Back-to-School Health Checklist

By NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital
Aug 19, 2009 - 2:55:51 PM

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Tips From Pediatricians at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and the NewYork-Presbyterian Phyllis and David Komansky Center for Children's Health

( - NEW YORK -- The first day of school always requires preparations -- notebooks, pens and a new set of clothes. But don't forget to prepare for your child's health, says Dr. Luz Adriana-Matiz, pediatrician and medical director of Win For Asthma at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Children spend the majority of their days in the classroom and the first step to achieving a healthy school environment is to have healthy students."

Dr. Romina Wancier, assistant attending pediatrician in the Division of General Academic Pediatrics at the NewYork-Presbyterian Phyllis and David Komansky Center for Children's Health and instructor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College, adds, "Your child should be physically and mentally prepared to go back to school. By ensuring a healthy start, parents can lay the groundwork for children to achieve their highest academic and extracurricular potential."

Dr. Adriana-Matiz and Dr. Wancier provide parents and caregivers with tips to help their kids get a smart start to the academic year.

* Are your child's immunizations up-to-date? The last thing you want is for your child to be turned away from school on the first day because he or she is not properly immunized. If you have recently moved from one state to another, check to see if your child meets the new state's regulations. In addition, new immunizations, such as hepatitis B, are now required. Check with your child's pediatrician.

* Has your child been vaccinated against influenza? More than 36,000 people die every year from influenza (flu). Children, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma and chronic lung disease are at greater risk for contracting influenza and experiencing its complications. The influenza virus changes every season so your child needs to be immunized every year against this illness. As you prepare to send your child back to school, make an appointment to have your child immunized.

* Have you noticed your child scratching his or her scalp since camp ended? It may be a sign that a case of lice was contracted during the summer. It is important that you check your child's head yourself, and, if you are unsure, contact the school nurse or your child's pediatrician. Head lice will not go away by itself, but can be treated with over-the-counter remedies.

* Does your child receive medication on a regular basis for diabetes, asthma or another chronic problem? School nurses and teachers must be made aware of your child's needs, especially if they are the ones who administer the medicine. Be sure to speak with them about these procedures before school begins, and work out an emergency course of action in case of a problem. Make sure emergency medications are close at hand -- that your child, their teacher and the nurse know where they are.

* Have your child's vision screened. It is important for children to have an annual vision screening because young children, especially, often don't know if they can't see adequately. If your child wears glasses, be sure that the prescription is current. If your child cannot see, they cannot learn properly.

* Have your child's hearing tested. Most states now mandate hearing tests for babies. But many school-age children have not been tested. If your child is listening to the television or music at a very high volume, or tends to favor one ear over the other when listening to you speak, it may be a sign of hearing loss.

* Does your child eat breakfast? Studies show that children who eat breakfast are more alert in class. Also, be sure that your child has a balanced, nutritious lunch, whether it is one you send or one provided by the school cafeteria. If your child is allowed to bring a snack, try to avoid junk food and focus more on fruits and other healthful food.

* Be equipped for sports. For children who wear glasses, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends one-piece wraparound polycarbonate sports frames for all contact sports, including soccer, field hockey and basketball. All children wearing spectacles need sports frames for gym. All children are being urged to use sports frames for contact sports.

* Is your child anxious and apprehensive? Most children are naturally anxious about the new school year. It normally takes about a month for children to adjust to new situations. A new school, fear of a class bully, or taking a school bus for the first time may cause anxieties. If after a few weeks your child continues to be anxious and apprehensive, bring this to the attention of his or her teacher so that you can identify the source of his or her anxiety and work out a solution.

* Do you suspect a learning disability or dyslexia? If you suspect that your child is not processing information as he or she should, speak to the teacher or learning center in your child's school as soon as possible. A professional diagnosis usually requires two days of testing.

* Are your emergency phone numbers up-to-date? Make sure that the school and your child know how to reach you or another caregiver at all times. The school administration and teachers should always know how to reach you if there is an issue that needs to be discussed.

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