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10 Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips

Make sure your children are healthy and ready to learn

Mother holds her children's hands while walking to their elementary school.

Make sure your children are healthy and ready to learn

Are your kids ready to go back to school?

Sure, there is always a lot to be done to get them ready to get back into the classroom, such as buying school supplies, new clothes and shoes. But also important is making sure they are healthy and ready to learn.

Get your kids off to a good school start by helping them stay safe and healthy on campus and in the classroom with these 10 tips.

1. Get a check-up

Make sure your children have been seen by their primary care physician within the past year to check their health and discuss any concerns, such as allergies or nutrition. 

“This is a great chance to talk to your pediatrician about any health changes your child may be experiencing,” says Daniel Lichtmann, MD, pediatrician at Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley. “Based on your family and child’s medical history, your physician can also identify and screen for specific health risks unique to your child,” Dr. Lichtmann says.

2. Keep immunizations current

Under the California School Immunization Law, children are required to receive certain immunizations in order to attend public and private elementary and secondary schools, child care centers and other educational programs

“Not only do these vaccines prevent your child from getting a potentially serious illness, but they also go a long way toward eradicating these dangerous diseases,” Dr. Lichtmann says. 

3. Update medical information

Let the school know of any medications your child takes, both at home and at school, as well as any medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, allergies or psychological issues. Be sure to provide contact information for your pediatrician along with medical emergency instructions.

4. Review safety rules

Remind your children not to talk to strangers and never to get into a stranger's car, no matter what the circumstances. Choose a "code word" that only you, your children and trusted friends and family members know in case someone else has to pick them up, and instruct your children never to trust anyone who doesn't know the code word.

Teach your children their address and phone number to contact you. Instruct them to find a parent, teacher or other trusted adult immediately if they don't feel safe.

5. Establish emergency procedures

Familiarize your family with the school's emergency procedures, and provide current contact information for parents and other relatives. Decide on a meeting point near the school where you can meet your child in case of emergency if you cannot reach him or her by telephone. If your child is old enough to use a cell phone, it may be a good idea to provide one that is reserved only for urgent situations.

6. Make helmets a must

Does your child ride a bike to school? Helmet use can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Choose a helmet that meets federal safety standards and fits correctly. According to the National Safety Council, a helmet should fit low and snug across the forehead. If you look up and can't see the helmet, it's too far back. 

7. Avoid backpack overload

A backpack that's too heavy or worn incorrectly can strain a child's neck or back and may cause injury. Backpacks should be lightweight with two wide, well-padded shoulder straps, a padded back and a waist strap. Pull both straps tightly enough so that the pack fits snugly against the back, but doesn't pull on the shoulders. Distribute the weight of items within the pack evenly on both sides, and keep it light.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that backpacks not exceed 10 to 20 percent of the child's weight. Consider a rolling backpack if allowed by the school.

8. Stand up to bullying

Bullying is a serious problem, yet many victims don't speak up for fear of ridicule or retaliation. If you suspect your child is a victim of bullying, encourage him or her to tell you what is going on. Ask questions and offer support and comfort. 

“Controlling your own emotions can make it easier for your child to open up to you about what he or she needs to feel safe,” Dr. Lichtmann says. “Talk to teachers and administrators about the situation.”    

9. Set reasonable schedules

Sports and extra-curricular activities help kids learn skills, socialize and have fun, but too much of a good thing can become stressful and ultimately negate the benefits. 

“Let your children choose what they want to participate in and change or drop activities that aren't enjoyable or become too demanding,” Dr. Lichtmann says.

10. Keep talking

With everyone on busy schedules, it can be difficult to find time to sit and talk with your kids.

“Make a point of asking your children about their day every afternoon or evening,” Dr. Lichtmann says.

“Give them your full attention and let them know you are interested in their lives,” Dr. Lichtmann adds. “Not only does this let your kids know you care, it can help open the door to conversations about problems or concerns.”