There is a back-to-school ritual that happens every year. Parents hit the stores to buy school supplies, and new clothes and shoes. They attend orientations at their schools to see their children’s classrooms and meet their new teachers. But one item that probably isn’t on most parents’ lists, but should be, is taking steps to ensure their children are healthy while at school. This involves teaching children good health habits, as well as communicating health information to the school nurse, and making sure all health records are up-to-date. At a recent gathering of school nurses throughout the school system, they were asked what they wished every parent knew in order to help keep their school communities healthy throughout the year. Here are their top tips.
Keep Your Child’s Immunizations Up-To-Date
- All students entering or attending pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in Georgia Schools are required to have a complete Georgia Certificate of Immunization (Form 3231) that is issued by a licensed Georgia physician, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Physician Assistant or qualified employee of a local Health Department or the State Immunization Office in accordance with Georgia State Law, O.C.G.A. 20-2-771, and Georgia Regulations, Chapter 290-5-4. All students must be immunized against disease as specified by the Georgia Department of Human Resources, or have medical or religious exemption on file at the school.
- All kindergarten students and students entering school for the first time are required to have the Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine and 2 doses of Hepatitis A. All 7th grade students and new entrants into Georgia schools, grade 8th through 12th, are required to have one dose of Meningococcal (meningitis) conjugate vaccine and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) booster. For further immunization information, visit the Georgia Department of Human Resources website at http://dph.georgia.gov/immunization-section.
- All students enrolled in a Georgia Public School for the first time are required to file a completed Certificate of Vision, Hearing, Dental and Nutrition Screening (Form 3300) in accordance with Georgia Regulations, Chapter 290-5-31.
Teach Your Child About Proper Hand Washing
Hand washing is one of the most important ways we can prevent the spread of illness in the classroom and school. By teaching your child how to wash his or her hands properly – especially after blowing his or her nose, after using the bathroom, and before eating – you can help your child reduce the risk of getting sick and infecting other students.
Help Your Child Build Personal Hygiene Habits
Everyday personal hygiene is basically keeping clean, but there is also a social side to dealing with personal things like body odor, smelly feet, and bad breath. Keeping clean is an important part of staying healthy such as showering, clean clothes, using deodorant, and dental hygiene. Parents can be good role models for their children in this area.
Sick Children Should Stay Home
One of the biggest health problems at school is parents who send their children to school knowing they are sick. The main reasons for keeping your child home from school are that he or she is too sick to participate comfortably at school, or might spread an illness to other students. Students should not come to school if they have a fever (>100 degrees F, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control); vomiting, diarrhea, drainage from a wound, rash, eyes or nose, head lice (until treatment has begun), and/or an unexplained rash.
Share Health Information With Your School Nurse
If your child has a severe allergy, asthma, cardiac condition, diabetes, seizures or other health condition that requires medication or care during the school day, share a health care plan from your healthcare provider with your school nurse. Any child returning to school after surgery or a hospitalization should provide a “Release to Return to School” form and any care instructions necessary during the school day with the school’s nurse.
Encourage A Healthy Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day when it comes to school. A balanced breakfast of low-fat protein and complex carbohydrates has been shown to be important for brain function, and maintaining a steady level of energy throughout the school day.
Set Good Sleep Habits
Making sure your child gets enough sleep is a crucial part of keeping your child healthy. Sleep is important not only for a child’s physical and emotional health, but also can play an important role in how successful they are in school. According to experts, school-age children need about nine to 10 hours of sleep, and teenagers need about eight to nine hours. It is essential to instill good bedtime habits, including limiting electronic stimulus before bed.
Choose The Right Backpack
School backpacks are heavier than ever, and using the wrong type of backpack or wearing it incorrectly can lead to back pain in children. Buy backpacks with wide straps and age appropriate size. Make sure the backpack is not too heavy, and straps are centered on the shoulders.
Setting healthy habits at the start of school can help families stay well throughout the school year. While there is no way to 100 percent prevent children from getting sick, the wellness habits stated above give children their best chance at staying healthy while in school.