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The back-to-school season is a great time to get your child caught up on annual wellness visits, vaccinations and sports physicals.
This time is also a good one to help your child with strategies to stay healthy – mentally and physically – in the classroom and beyond.
Learn tips from caregivers across Providence on how to get your child back to school feeling their best.
It seems like just yesterday that summer began, but you may already be thinking about preparing for the back-to-school season. Heading back to school brings lots of excitement – as well as an opportunity to check in on your child’s health.
Providence caregivers are here for you and your child so they can start the school year off on the right foot. Here is a back-to-school checklist with some tips to help get your child back to school feeling their best.
Plan your wellness checkups
The back-to-school time is a great moment for your child’s wellness checkup. Children should see a physician for a well-visit at least once a year, regardless of if they are otherwise healthy.
“We’re here all year, but birthdays and back-to-school are good reminders to make an appointment for your child’s wellness check-up,” says Jennifer Wild, M.D., a pediatrician at Providence Medical Group.
During these annual visits, your child’s pediatrician will conduct:
- Behavioral assessments, including checking mental health, diet and sleep
- Physical assessments, including measuring height, weight and blood pressure
- Vaccines and other scheduled assessments
- Vision and hearing screenings
These well-child visits are also great opportunities to get advice from your health care provider on helping your child if you have any concerns about their physical, emotional or mental health.
Get caught up on vaccines
Along with your well visit, the new school year is the best time to make sure your child is up to date on their vaccines. State laws require children to have certain vaccines to be able to go to school.
“Vaccines have played an important role in our society eliminating very serious diseases, like polio and smallpox, and getting much better control on illnesses such as measles,” explains Jacqueline Hunziker, M.D., a pediatrician at Swedish Medical Center. “Keeping kids up-to-date on all their recommended immunizations not only keeps them healthy but helps prevent major outbreaks in the community.”
Importantly, Dr. Hunziker notes that vaccines are safe, effective ways to boost your child’s immune system.
The most common vaccines required for school include:
- Hepatitis B (HepB)
- Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTap or Tdap)
- Poliovirus (IPV)
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
- Varicella (VAR)
The Centers of Disease Control, or CDC, and pediatricians also recommend other vaccines throughout childhood. While often not required for school, the COVID-19 and seasonal influenza vaccines can keep your child feeling their best throughout the cold and flu season.
Schedule your sports physicals
School sports are a great way for children to stay active and engage socially. Before starting any sports, it’s important to make sure your child is prepared for the program.
“During a sports physical, young athletes may want to ask specific questions about their training regimen and what would be a healthy way to improve in their sport,” said Marina Sarwary, MS, PA-C, medical director of ExpressCare California for Providence. “This is their opportunity to gain medical guidance that can help them stay healthy while training in an athletic environment.”
During a sports physical, your child’s caregiver will review your child’s medical history. This may include going over family history of disease, chronic medical problems, allergies, medications, past injuries and previous hospitalizations. They will also conduct a physical examination, including taking your child’s height, weight and blood pressure, as well as checking vision, hearing, heart, lungs, muscles, bones and joints.
Your child’s caregiver will also take special care to evaluate your child’s:
- Heart health
- Mental health
- Female athlete health concerns
- Concussions and head injuries
Sports physicals do not take the place of an annual physical or wellness checkup with your child’s pediatrician.
Prep your child for a healthy time in their classroom
Once you have your child’s wellness visits, physicals and vaccines covered, help them stay healthy all year while they are at school.
- Collaborate with your child’s teacher to make sure food allergies and dietary restrictions are known for classroom celebrations
- Help your child stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle for their lunch box
- Make (and test) new, creative and nutritious lunch options
- Practice “safety first” when it comes to school sports, including concussion protocols
- Prevent back and shoulder pain with a new backpack
- Remind your child to wash their hands
- Support your child’s classroom with sustainable school supplies
Check in on mental health
Even children who love school can experience first-day jitters but helping them to establish a routine can get them through their first day of school and beyond. You can help your child’s mental health and well-being for their first day of school by:
- Helping your child learn coping techniques for stressful moments
- Preparing school supplies ahead of time and practicing your morning routine to reduce first-day stress
- Setting up bedtime, sleep schedules and wakeup rituals before the school year starts
- Staying engaged with your child’s social network, teachers and other staff
Most importantly, continue to keep the mental health conversation going throughout the school year – and listen to them when your child wants to share!
Jennifer Wild, M.D., is a pediatrician at Providence Medical Group.
Jacqueline Hunziker, M.D., is a pediatrician at Swedish Medical Center.
Marina Sarwary, MS, PA-C, is the medical director of ExpressCare California for Providence.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.
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