Your Back-to-School Health Guide

Your Back-to-School Health Guide-min

Your car is full of sand, you’re washing bathing suits and towels on repeat, and your kids were up until 11 p.m. catching fireflies — it’s hard to fully fathom when you’re deep in summer mode, but in a few weeks, school will start again. You know you need to buy supplies and schedule haircuts, but, depending on your child’s age, you may have some medical to-dos as well.

Carey Dodds, MD, a pediatrician with Baptist Health Medical Group in Madisonville, says that once a child turns 2 years old, he should get a physical examination every year, even if he isn’t due for booster shots. Summer is a good time to do it, since there are fewer germs going around and schedules tend to be more relaxed.

“We want to make sure children are growing well and don’t have any problems, and we can talk about preventive care,” Dr. Dodds says.

Doctor’s Visits: What to Know by Age

  • Preschoolers

“Kids typically get a series of booster shots once they turn 4, and their preschool will want to see that these are up to date,” Dr. Dodds says. These include DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough), polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and varicella (chicken pox).

  • Elementary School

According to Dr. Dodds, if your child is entering kindergarten in Kentucky, she’ll need to be seen by her pediatrician, an eye doctor and a dentist, each of whom will have to complete paperwork before she will be permitted to start school. Due to recent outbreaks, all children in grades kindergarten through 12 now need the hepatitis A vaccine for the upcoming school year. It’s given in two doses spread six months apart, and only the first dose is needed to start school.

  • Middle School

At age 11, children receive, by the routine vaccine schedule, Tdap, which is a tetanus and whooping cough booster; meningococcal meningitis vaccine, which protects against a type of bacterial meningitis; and HPV vaccine, which protects against certain types of cancers.

  • High School

Another dose of the meningococcal meningitis vaccine is given at age 16.

Sleep, Stress and More: Smart Tips for Everyone

Remember the other doctors. If your child wears glasses or contacts, summer is the perfect time to schedule an exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to check her peepers, update her prescription and make sure she will be able to see the board when she gets to class. Does she play a regular sport and see an orthopedist for any reason? Add a follow-up to the calendar if she’s due for that exam. It’s also a good time to see the dentist, which Dr. Dodds says should happen every six months for all children.

Ease back into bedtime. If your kids have been late to bed and late to rise, they’ll have a rude awakening (literally!) when the alarm starts blaring that first morning. A week before school begins, start shifting their bedtime back gradually (try 15 minutes at a time) to start to reset their internal clocks.

Prioritize the first meal of the day and healthy eating in general. For students, eating breakfast has been associated with better memory, test scores and attention spans, not to mention healthier body weights. Kids should also be drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary beverages.

Don’t overschedule the first few weeks. “Let younger students get reintroduced to school before they start those 500 after-school activities again,” Dr. Dodds says. If it’s possible, have kids come straight home for downtime, whether they spend it reading, getting back into the homework routine, or, for younger children, doing a quiet activity such as a craft or puzzle.

Decrease screen time while increasing physical activity. If your child has had free rein of the iPad all summer, now’s the time to start limiting it, especially during the hour before bedtime, since the stimulation can prevent restful sleep. Teens and tweens should never keep their phones in their rooms overnight. And children should have a minimum of one hour of active play or sports daily. Making this a priority will help boost endorphins and soothe some of the stress caused by starting school again.

All Baptist Health Urgent Care locations are offering special $25 pricing on school or sports physicals through Aug. 31. With online check-in, you can easily find a time that fits your busy summer schedule. Find a location near you.

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