How to Go Back to School in Good Health

Viruses and bacteria have a new set of victims lined up: It’s back-to-school time.

As children (and their teachers) mingle in their classrooms and schoolyards for the first time in months, the chance of passing on illnesses increases.

Jason Brackins, Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic physician assistant, has some suggestions for ensuring that students get off to a good start and stay healthy this school year and into the future:

–Make sure your children’s vaccinations are up to date. The state of Tennessee has set requirements for vaccines and immunizations that should be respected.

–As fall approaches, it’s time for flu shots. “Untreated influenza as led to hundreds of thousands of deaths world-wide,” Jason said. “October and November are flu season.” It’s best to get a flu shot now and gain some immunity before the bug hits. (This applies to adults as well as children.)

–Good hand-washing habits will control the spread of viruses and infections. Children should be taught to wash their hands after using the toilet, before eating and at other times when they are exposed to other kids’ germs. Door handles, for example, can spread disease.

–Eating a good, healthy diet. Children need well-balanced meals, Jason said. Schools provide breakfast and lunch; snacks are not enough to sustain growing children.

–Students of all ages need a minimum of eight hours’ sleep every night, he said. Children go through periods of rapid brain growth and need more sleep than they will as adults.

–Good oral hygiene is a practice that all students, regardless of age, need to cultivate. Some schools teach the basics of dental care. Brushing their teeth twice a day should become a habit that will serve all students well throughout their lives.

Jason also suggests that parents monitor their children’s vision and hearing and have them tested. These days, children begin listening to music and wearing headsets for video games long before they are teenagers. “Extreme noise over long periods of time can lead to long-term consequences,” he warned.

By promoting these basic practices, parents can ensure their children have a healthy, happy school year and learn health habits that will stand them in good stead all their lives, Jason said.