Get a healthy start back to school

You’ve made it through the festive season, enjoyed some time out with family and friends, and relaxed with long summer days at the beach. Now it’s time to start preparing the kids to go back to school! In this month’s blog, we give you some tips on how to help your children enjoy a healthy and happy start to the new school year.

Whether your kids are starting their first year, last year, or any year in between, the new school year can bring with it a whole range of health challenges.

Common school health concerns
Some common health concerns for school-aged children include:

  1. Anxiety – starting school for the first time or going back to school after a long break can cause some anxiety for children. Just as with adults, stress and anxiety can negatively impact on your child’s health and often shows up as physical or behavioural changes. Be aware of any changes in your child’s behaviour and speak to your doctor if you are at all concerned.

  2. Germs – schools are a breeding ground for germs. Tummy troubles, skin rashes and coughs and colds can all spread quickly and easily in the school yard. Keeping your child home when they are sick and teaching them good hygiene habits – including proper hand washing, covering their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, and not sharing food or water with friends – can all help to reduce the spread of infections at school.

3. Head Lice – more annoying than dangerous, these tiny, wingless insects live in the hair of humans and animals. While they don’t spread disease, they can cause itching and irritation and move easily between children’s heads. While lice are difficult to prevent, you can help reduce the risk of infestation by tying back long hair and encouraging your child to avoid head-to-head contact with other children.

If your child does get head lice, treat them straight away and notify the school as soon as possible in order to help prevent the spread to other children.

Healthy students are better learners
Healthy students are generally more alert, engaged and better able to concentrate and learn.

As noted by the US Centres for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), healthy students are better on all levels of academic achievement, including academic performance, education behaviour, and cognitive skills and attitudes.

Luckily, there are some easy health essentials you can put in place to help give your children a healthy start to the new school year.

  1. Vaccinate – vaccinations are an important way to protect you, your family and the wider community from a range of diseases. All schools in Western Australia have immunisation requirements for enrolment. Be sure to check with your school what their immunisation requirements are and make sure your child is up-to-date with their vaccinations before starting school.

  2. Get your Action Plans in place – if your child has been diagnosed with asthma, allergies or eczema, make sure you have an up-to-date Action Plan available to provide to the school.

Having an action plan in place helps all those who care for your child to better manage their condition and can help reduce the severity of an attack or reaction. Speak to your GP or health professional if you have any specific questions or concerns about your child’s asthma, allergies and/or eczema.

3. Sleep well – it’s easy to be a bit more relaxed with bedtimes during the summer holidays, but getting your child back into a good sleep routine before school goes back will set them up for a good start to the school year. Sleep is important for both your child’s physical and emotional health. School aged children generally need between 9 and 11 hours’ sleep per night.

4. Eat well – a diet filled with a variety of foods containing a range of nutrients is essential for children’s growth and learning.

Given that 30% of your child’s daily food intake will be consumed at school, it’s important to ensure your child has a healthy, nutritious lunch box each day.

This blog from our friends at Nutrition Force, provides some great tips for healthy lunch boxes>>

5. Get movingAustralian Department of Health Guidelines recommend children aged 5 to 17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, involving mainly aerobic activities.

The summer holidays are a great time to enjoy a range of outdoor activities.

Being physically active is not only good for your child’s physical health, it can also help reduce anxiety and allow them to maintain focus once they’re back at school.

6. Choose the right backpack – from school books to lunch boxes to show and tell items, kids carry a lot in their backpacks these days.

An ill-fitting backpack can negatively impact on their posture and gait and cause physical discomfort.

To prevent long-term neck and back problems, find a backpack that is the right size and fit for your child.

The Australian Spinal Research Foundation offers some useful tips in choosing the right school bag>>

Child health services at Illawarra Medical Centre
At Illawarra Medical Centre, we have a strong focus on children’s health care and can provide assessments and ongoing management for a range of child health services, including immunisations, feeding and diet advice, behavioural issues, chronic diseases such as eczema and warts, and general health checks.

To make a booking with one of our GPs to discuss any child health concerns you have or to get your child’s vaccinations and health care plans up-to-date, go to our online bookings page or contact us on (08) 9208 6400.

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