By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
With the new school year approaching, students must get back to their normal routine.
Whether that is dealing with healthy eating habits or increased physical activity, there are numerous tips parents should follow to assure their kids are in top shape for the first day of school. Physician Dennis Kuo offers five key advice for parents — and students. Kuo is division chief of general pediatrics at the University at Buffalo and medical director of primary care services at Women & Children‘s Hospital of Buffalo.
1. Pay attention to sleep
When it comes to back to school routines, one of the hardest ones to overcome is getting kids back to a regular sleeping schedule. During the summer, late nights are the norm; however, that continued pattern will only cause tired and unfocused brains during school. With their sleeping schedule completely out of sync, Kuo suggests slowly bringing students back to their old routine.
“If you were going to bed at 11 p.m. or midnight during the summer, they should slowly start sleeping 15 minutes earlier each few days until you reach your desired sleep,” said Kuo. “You want to do this a minimum of two weeks before school starts. It will get their bodies ready to learn to sleep earlier. If you try to do it only a few days before classes all you are going to do is have a kid who is staying up in bed for hours. Your body doesn’t simply get back into a routine in a few days.”
2. Eat breakfast
Healthy eating contributes to overall healthy growth and development, including healthy bones, skin and energy levels; and a lowered risk of dental caries, eating disorders, constipation, malnutrition and iron deficiency anemia. Overweight and obesity, influenced by poor diet and inactivity, are significantly associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, joint problems, and poor health status.
“Eating healthy in general and following a proper diet is essential for kids,” said Kuo. “If you want to truly be able to focus and have your mind prepared and ready for school, you need to have a proper meal to start off your day.”
3. Immunization shots
New York state requires students to have their shots as they prepare for the new year. With students being in such proximity to each other — hundreds of people at a time — sickness can spread rapidly for those who are not vaccinated.
“It is the single most important thing we can do to keep kids healthy at this time,” said Kuo.
The list of required immunization shots for students include:
• Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTaP/DTP/Tdap)
• Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
• Hepatitis B.
• Meningococcal conjugate (Macaw)
• Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate (Hib)
• Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV)
4. Annual physical
Back-to-school season adds a lot of things to a busy parent’s to do list: purchasing school supplies, finding new clothes for the kids, and wrapping up summer programs. Don’t let a school physical fall by the wayside during this busy time. During a routine physical, your health professional will check all of your child’s body systems to ensure there are no apparent problems. This allows you to catch any problems early on and get your child the best early intervention resources available. It can be essential to check your physical and mental health.
“You really want to make sure that you are getting checked for many things especially if you have asthma, allergies or any other recurring ailments,” said Kuo. “Plus, your primary care physician is also a good place to start a conversation if you have a teen that is dealing with mental health issues like anxiety or depression.”
5. Turn off the technology
Kuo said this connection is the No. 1 tip about sleeping. Just simply getting into bed is not enough. It’s the sleeping part that is the most important. However, too often, students lay in bed while still using their cell phones to play games and watch videos.
“People have to remember that electronics are a stimulus. Your brain is not turning off while you are watching the latest YouTube video,” added Kuo. “You need to keep the smart phone on your night stand and stay completely away from it so your body actually does get a chance to wind down.”