By Rajiv Prasad, M.D. |
As the lazy days of summer come to an end and parents and children start picking out backpacks and first day outfits, there are several important tips that parents should keep in mind to ensure a safe and healthy school year.
Although controversy continues to surround vaccinations, there is very little, if any, evidence that links vaccines to autism or other illnesses. In fact, making sure children are fully vaccinated is one of the best things a parent can do to safeguard a child’s long-term health, as well as the health of the community. As vaccine critics continue to raise concerns, vaccination rates have declined. In direct correlation, disease rates have increased. From January to June 2016, there were nearly 6,000 cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, reported to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. That is a big increase over previous years. Likewise, in 2014, the CDC reported the highest number of measles cases since it was ruled “eliminated” from the U.S. in 2000. By making sure your children are vaccinated, you eliminate their risk of catching these highly contagious diseases or others.
Another tip parents should keep in mind as the school year begins is to make sure your children are eating a well-balanced lunch to help them power through the afternoon. Preparing a meal that’s high in protein, low in sugar and contains healthy carbohydrates will help them feel energized and keep their brains sharp.
During the school year, physicians often see an increase in the amount of children complaining of back pain, which can be attributed to heavy backpacks. School bags should not weigh more than 15 percent of a child’s weight. Parents should look for a bag that is the correct size for their height and weight, that has padded back and shoulder straps, and reflective material.
As school sports kick into high gear in early September, it’s important to remember that it can still be warm and that dehydration can still be of concern. While school athletic trainers and coaches do a great job making sure that players are drinking enough water, it’s important for parents to also be vigilant and encourage hydration. Signs of dehydration include light-headedness, confusion, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
Parents should also inspect all protective sporting equipment to be certain that it’s in good condition and fits appropriately. They should also remain alert for concussion symptoms such as confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation, clumsiness and poor balance, or changes in a child’s mood.
It’s also important that parents make sure children know their address and telephone number. If they are too young to remember that information, parents should be sure to include it in a permanent manner inside the child’s backpack. This will make certain that first responders know who to contact in the event of an emergency.
These tips can help keep your children safe throughout the school year and keep the focus on education, not injury or illness.
Rajiv Prasad, M.D., is medical director of Dept. of Emergency Medicine at Bayshore Medical Center.
This article was first published in the August 10-17, 2017 Back to School edition of The Two River Times.
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