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Back to School: Healthy Habits to Encourage

Children's Health
Author name: Lee Health


Back to school graphic

The hazy, lazy days of summer are coming to a close. Now, it’s time to prepare your family and children for the start of another school year.

What immunizations does your child need? If they’re playing for sports for the first time, do they have to get a physical? What about COVID-19 prevention? Can they get COVID and other vaccines at the same time?

The concerns can come fast and furious. Relax—you got this.

Stephanie Stovall, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer of Quality/Safety and Hospital-Based Care with Lee Health, offers some tips to make your family’s transition to the new school year less stressful.

Schedule a well-child care visit

“Going back to school should coincide with an annual well-child care visit with your pediatrician or family doctor,” Dr. Stovall says. “Many children missed check-ups and recommended childhood vaccinations during the past two years because of COVID. These visits and recommended vaccinations are essential for helping to make sure children stay healthy.”

Dr. Stovall says well-child care visits includes getting physicals and recommended vaccines, both of which are essential for all children. Vaccine updates are especially important for children ages 4-5 and 11-12, she notes.

“Talk with your doctor about your child’s vaccines because your child may also need vaccination against other preventable infections such as chicken pox or human papillomavirus.”

Dr. Stovall recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older, including anyone who already had COVID-19, should get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against severe COVID-19.

“Emerging evidence indicates that people can get added protection by getting vaccinated after being infected with COVID,” she notes. “Children and teens may get a COVID vaccine and other vaccines, including a flu vaccine, at the same time, although the vaccines can’t be mixed in the same syringe.

“For children who have been infected with COVID, their next dose can be delayed three months from when their symptoms started,” Dr. Stovall explains. “If your child didn’t show symptoms, their next dose can also be delayed three months after receiving a positive test. These delays can happen with a primary dose or a booster dose.”

Visit (under the “Parents & Schools” tab) to find information about which shots are required for school/childcare center entry and to participate in physical activities.

Practicing healthy habits protects everyone, including your child

Dr. Stovall suggests giving your child a refresher on how they can protect themselves and others from getting sick by practicing healthy habits like hand washing.

“Teach them how to properly wash their hands or to use a gel-based hand sanitizer throughout the day to avoid getting sick and spreading germs,” Dr. Stovall says. “Also, show them how they need to cover the mouth with an elbow or sleeve when coughing or sneezing. If your child has a fever, they should be kept at home and not return to school until 24 hours after they are fever free.”

Stay healthy with good hand hygiene: here’s how

Here are other key tips to ensure your child’s health, wellness, and success during the school year:

  • Help keep your child from falling asleep in class. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep schedule for:
    • preschoolers (3-5 years old): 11-14 hours
    • school-aged children (6-13 years old): 9-11 hours
    • teenagers (14-17 years old): 8-10 hours
  • Power your child off to school with a healthy breakfast each day Busy? These healthy school snack ideas will save you time
  • Make sure your child wears their backpack correctly (with the weight evenly distributed). To prevent injuries and strain, Dr. Stovall recommends that your child carry no more than 10-15 percent of their body weight.
  • Try to get your child organized by using a wall calendar or planner to record due dates, extracurricular activities and need-to-know information (phone numbers, locker combination, teachers’ names, class times, etc.).

Back-to-school and sports physicals

Anyone who is participating in school sports, community activities, or attending school should receive a physical, Dr. Stovall advises.

“Getting a physical examination protects your child, classmates, and teammates from avoidable injuries,” she says. “Many athletic leagues and schools require pre-participation physical exams (PPE) for kids and teens participating in activities such as bowling, cheerleading, cross country, football, golf, marching band, swimming, and volleyball.

“Your child should receive a physical exam, especially if they are participating in sports for the first time. Both sports PPE and physical exams are helpful for identifying any unknown issues that could affect your child’s ability to play a sport as well as their overall health.”

What should you bring to your child’s physical exam?

Bring any required forms for healthcare providers to complete. If the patient wears glasses or contacts, bring those to the exam, too.

“You should also bring your child’s immunization records and a list of any medications your child takes, including prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines,” Dr. Stovall adds.

Back-to-school physicals include:

  • Height and weight
  • Blood pressure
  • Eating and sleeping habits
  • Heart rate, lung function
  • Musculoskeletal issues
  • Vital signs
  • Ears and throat
  • Allergies, skin issues, and nutrition
  • Review of all medications and medical history
  • Physical exam

Sports pre-participation physical exam (PPE) and school physicals are offered at the four Lee Health Convenient Care locations. Appointments are not required.

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