Stay Healthy This School Year

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Gale R. Burstein
Gale R. Burstein

Beyond routine vaccinations required for school, you can do much more to help your children stay healthy this year. Of course, supporting good health is important year-round; however, it’s easy to let a few things slide during the long, lazy days of summer.

Here what the experts say:

• “Make sure your kids get in the habit of getting a good night’s sleep. In the summertime when you don’t have something to get up for, sleep gets slack.

• “Get a knapsack that fits your child well with wide, padded shoulder straps and padded back. Make sure that the backpack is adjusted so the bottom sits at the child’s waist and make sure that the child understands that they have to use both straps. They should carry no more than 10 percent of their body weight.

• “Advise them that when they sneeze or cough, cover their face with their elbow. If a classmate looks sick, it means they are sick. Advise your child to stay away from that person.

• “During cold or flu season, you can’t use hand sanitizer enough. Those germs are everywhere. They can survive for over 24 hours on surfaces like doorknobs and table tops. It’s really important for kids to wash their hands and avoid putting their hands on their faces, especially when they’re in public.

• “Make sure that your kids have access to nutritious foods throughout the day. That helps keep them healthy. Breakfast is really the most important meal of the day. Make sure they eat something before they leave if they don’t have access to breakfast at school.

Physician Gale R. Burstein, commissioner of health, Erie County Department of Health

• “Teach them good hand-washing habits. Hand washing should occur before they eat, after touching something soiled, and after the bathroom. Apply soap, lather while singing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’, rinse off with water and dry. Hand sanitizer is better than nothing.

• “When you take your child to the doctor, don’t demand antibiotics. That’s a conversation I have a lot with parents. Viruses don’t respond to antibiotics. We don’t have medications that make viruses go away. You just need to let them rest so they can recover and so it won’t spread to other children. There’s no other way around it.”

Rachel Kaufman, pediatrician with Buffalo Pediatric Associates, LLP, in Williamsville

• “A school-aged kid should be getting about nine to 11 hours of sleep a night. Adolescents need eight to 10 hours. Children need to limit screen time. They should also put away electronic devices an hour before bedtime so they can get good rest.
• “We recommend flu vaccine because school-aged kids are the people who have the highest rates of flu. They just pass it around the school.
• “Make sure they get enough fruits and vegetables. I never heard of a kid eating too many vegetables.

• “Older kids tend to skip breakfast, but you can’t learn if you’re not having breakfast.

• “If a child’s schedule gets out of routine, it’s important to be back in that routine when school starts.”

Dennis Kuo, pediatrician with Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo