Going back to school means your children are going back to the classroom filled with their friends, classmates and new teachers. Whether it’s working on a group project or on the playground at recess, germs can spread quickly in schools. Because of the increased exposure to other children, colds, rashes and the flu all pop up around the beginning of the school year. Dr. Cameual Wright, the Medical Director at CareSource, a nonprofit health plan, has a few important tips to share with parents on ways to prevent common illnesses contracted at school.
Personal hygiene is an important concept to learn at a young age, especially going back to school. It’s critical to teach children how to properly wash their hands and know to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze. If your child is very ill, keep them at home so they don’t expose other children to these illnesses. Your children should also be educated on how to handle any allergies they have. For example, if your child is allergic to peanuts, it’s important to inform the school and go over protocols with your child for how to keep them safe and healthy.
Lice is also a very common disease among children. While we encourage the practice of sharing, it’s important to tell children not to share their hats, combs or clothes with others to avoid head lice. With younger kids, you might even want to perform a weekly head check (you can find a guide for what to look for from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If your child does have lice, tell the school immediately and keep them home until it’s gone.
We recommend that all children have wellness checks before school starts, and this includes vaccinations. The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccination every year after your child is six months old. The HPV and Meningococcal vaccines are also important for children to receive around ages 11-12, as well as a Meningococcal booster around age 16. We know getting shots is probably not your child’s favorite thing in the world, but it’s important to keep up with vaccines so we can stop the spread of diseases. The CDC also has this helpful chart to guide you on what vaccines your child should have and when they should receive them.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are becoming a focus for many physicians. ACEs refer to abuse, neglect or other traumatic experiences during childhood. Recent research from the CDC shows that ACEs can have negative consequences later in life, both physical and psychological. One consequence is that it could affect a child’s genetics and how they respond to situations. Parents should create a safe environment where kids can express their emotions in a healthy way. Leave the door open to have important conversations, especially if a child is in an unstable home environment. Giving your child a loving mentor provides them with a sense of safety and stability. The CDC also provides more information on how parents can prevent and heal ACEs.
As students go back to school, parents should talk with their children about how to not be a bully, but also how to respond to bullying. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 high school students reported being bullied in school, and more than 15 percent reported being cyber bullied. One of the best things a parent can do is to create an environment where kids feel comfortable coming forward to talk about these issues. If your kids start to act out more than usual or aren’t enjoying the activities they used to love, then you might want to talk to your child or physician about these signs of depression.
Nutrition and Exercise
There’s nothing better for childhood development than good nutrition and exercise. Eating healthy helps children stay alert and focused when they go back to school. Also, you should encourage kids to stay active, whether it’s from playing a sport or taking a walk with you around the neighborhood. Exercise is a natural antidepressant and can help lower the risk of obesity or Type 2 diabetes. Finally, make sure your kids get a reasonable amount of sleep at night. Being well-rested can help children act out less and focus more during school.
To help you and your children transition into the school year, CareSource provides coverage for necessary exams and immunizations. It can also provide you with transportation to remove barriers from getting proper health care. If you find your child might be feeling depressed or acting out, CareSource case managers can direct you to the proper specialist for help. For more information, visit www.caresource.com.
Dr. Cameual Wright is medical director for CareSource.