With the new school year underway, we asked Pediatrician Lance Jepson how parents can help keep their kids healthy.
What are some things parents can do to help protect their kids from health risks during the school year?
Dr. Jepson: One of the best things that parents can do is make sure kids are getting their recommended immunizations. Also make sure you’re encouraging good hand hygiene. And when they do get an illness, encourage them to cover a cough appropriately, use tissues, and wash their hands after they do. It’s not just about washing hands, but also washing them well. Have them sing the “Happy Birthday” song two times while they wash to make sure they’ve washed long enough.
Required immunizations are different for kids at different ages. Is there an easy way for parents to keep up with the schedules?
Visit the Center for Disease Control’s site. You can even do searches for vaccinations by your child’s age on some parent-specific sites and get the information you need.
Dr J’s ABCs of Classroom Health
- Always wash your hands before lunch.
- Be sure to get your vaccinations.
- Cough into your sleeve, not your hands.
How do parents know when to keep their children home from school or when to contact a doctor?
The biggest thing I’d watch for is fever, anything from 100.4°F or higher. Also if the child is vomiting, you should keep them out and away from other kids. And if they’re having any kind of of breathing difficulty as well. If they’re having any of these kinds of symptoms, you should follow up with your doctor for further evaluation.
It’s not uncommon to have fever in the first two to three days with viral illness. Early on you can usually just make sure they’re keeping fluids down and give them Tylenol® or ibuprofen as needed. If the fever goes beyond that time, or you’re having vomiting or breathing issues, we need to see that child. Many cases are viral, however, and antibiotics are not going to have any benefit. Home care can really be adequate for most viruses. If they are no longer having symptoms and are over their fever for 24 hours, they can generally return to school.
Are there things parents can do to encourage healthier lifestyles during the school year?
Healthy food choices are best, and it’s better to work together as a family on meal plans rather than just single out the kids. And if you establish those choices early on, it sets an example for the kids to follow when they grow up. Having meals together and turning off the tablets during meals is a good idea, too. The interaction with your kids is so important, so you can be aware of what’s happened in their day.
Asthma and allergies are a problem for a lot of kids. Anything parents can do to manage these risks better?
In households where there’s smoking, try to remove exposure. Removing smoke from the environment entirely is best because it gets into clothing and hair which triggers asthma and allergies. Make sure air filters are changed regularly. Also guard against moisture that can develop mold. And now that we’re into fall, we tend to want to open windows. But remember the air outside with elevated ragweed count can be a trigger as well.
Resources to help children cope with school-related stress
Dr. Jepson and Rita Zeller, our Behavioral Health Consultant, have identified the following list of resources that can be helpful to help children cope with the stress that can come with a school year. Some of these resources are free, while others may have a fee associated with them.