A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Preparing for back-to-school means school supplies — and wellness exams to be sure kids are ready

As a new school year approaches, KentuckyOne Health reminds parents with students of all ages to prepare early to help children ease back into a routine. A new school year can be overwhelming for the whole family. From purchasing school supplies and scheduling wellness exams to reducing a child’s anxiety and making sure they are getting adequate sleep, parents have a lot to juggle.

Immunization Protects Your Child and Others

Immunizations are vital to keeping children of all ages healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended immunization schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life when they are most vulnerable and before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening infectious diseases.
 
“It is crucial that children are up to date on recommended vaccinations before they start each school year,” said Matthew Offutt, MD, KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates. “It isn’t just for the sake of the vaccinated child, but to protect children who, due to certain immune conditions, can’t be vaccinated. These children and their families rely on classmates not spreading preventable diseases like measles and mumps.”
 
For younger kids, Kentucky has several health requirements for school admission at various grade levels. New this year for Kentucky students, grades K-12, is proof of receiving the hepatitis A vaccine.

 

Other required vaccinations for school entry include DTaP for the prevention of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis; hepatitis B; HIB haemophilus influenzae vaccine that protects against bacteria found in meningitis, pneumonia, and infections of the blood, bones and joints; measles; mumps; rubella; polio; varicella; and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
 
An eye exam is recommended before the first year of school and a preventative health care examination is required within one year of entry into the sixth grade, along with another series of vaccinations, including Tdap, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also known as whooping cough); meningococcal (meningitis); and a second dose of varicella (if not already given).
 
There are several vaccinations that may be recommended for your child, but not required for admission to school, like meningococcal B, Gardasil (human papillomavirus) and influenza vaccinations.
 
It’s important to remember that vaccines are not just for kids. College students and adults of all ages can benefit from vaccinations. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine which vaccines may be right for you and your family.
 
Getting Enough Sleep Lends to Better Learning

Restful sleep is imperative to general health and well-being, however the night before the first day of school is not the time to make drastic changes to sleep schedules. If children have been enjoying the perks of longer summer days and a later bedtime, it’s a good idea to begin a stricter routine a few weeks out from the start of the school year. Moving bedtime back in 10- to 15-minute increments and waking late sleepers earlier each morning can make the transition to the fall schedule go more smoothly.
 
“School-aged children typically need 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night,” said Dr. Offutt. “Lack of sleep can affect a child’s mood, behavior, and cognitive ability, having a negative impact on both the child’s progress in school and the learning environment as a whole.”
 
Children should avoid sodas or other caffeinated drinks six hours prior to going to sleep. Parents should also limit or eliminate a child’s access to electronics and screen time in the two hours leading up to bedtime. A good night’s sleep is crucial for reducing stress in students, as it helps manage hormone levels.
 
Mental Health is Just as Important as Physical Health

Regardless of sleeping habits, children are susceptible to some apprehension when starting a new school year. Worries can range from anxiety about schoolwork to whether the student will fit in and make new friends. Students entering high school may be overwhelmed by switching classrooms and teachers or worry about bullying.
 
Across the nation, 28 percent of students in grades 6-12 reported experiencing bullying, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. There are many types of bullying, all of which can have a negative impact on mental and physical health.
 
Signs that a child is more stressed than what is considered normal could include frequent complaints of headaches or stomach pain with no medical explanation, a change in eating habits, a child who is angry or agitated with no clear reason, frequent crying, or reports from teachers that the child avoids participating in class activities. Children with severe anxiety may require medical care.

During a child’s annual wellness exam, necessary vaccinations will be administered. Parents can also discuss any questions or concerns about their child’s sleep habits, mental health and overall well-being. Speak with your child’s primary care provider about how you can help ease the back-to-school transition and ensure a successful school year.
 
To learn more about how to keep your family healthy, call 1.844.423.3770 or visit the website.

Kentucky One Health

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