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Tips for a healthy school year

After a summer full of activities, classrooms fill with old friends, new classmates and eager teachers, but with all the excitement of a fresh school year comes the introduction of quickly-spreading germs. The increased exposure to other children and adults leads to colds, rashes and the flu popping up in the first few months of the school year. Dr. Seema Csukas, Medical Director of the Georgia Market at CareSource, a nonprofit health plan, has a few important tips to share with parents on ways to prevent common illnesses contracted at school.

Hygiene

Personal hygiene is an important concept to introduce at a young age, especially when children are returning to school. It’s critical to teach children how to properly wash their hands and know to cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough. If your child is ill or running a fever, keep them at home.

While not a germ, lice are a very common problem among children due to their contagious nature. It’s important to encourage the practice of sharing, but children should not share hats, hairbrushes, combs or clothes. Performing weekly head checks on younger children combats the transfer of lice, too. If you discover lice, it’s vital to tell the school immediately and keep them at home until it’s treated.

Vaccinations

We recommend that all children have a wellness check prior to the start of the school year, and this includes vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting a flu vaccination every year after your child is six months old. Around the ages of 11-12, the Tdap and meningococcal vaccines are important to receive, as well as the meningococcal booster around the age of 16. Make sure you are familiar with which vaccinations are required for school attendance.  While shots are not a fun experience, they do assist in preventing the spread of diseases.

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 that occur during childhood. Recent research from the CDC shows that ACEs can be linked to both negative physical and psychological consequences later in life. Parents should create a supportive environment where children can express their feelings in a safe space. Giving children a loving mentor provides a sense of safety and stability where there might not be one.

Bullying  

As students trickle back into schools, parents should talk to their children about bullying. It’s important they know how not to be a bully, but also how to respond to a situation that includes 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 their children feel comfortable coming forward to talk about these issues. If you notice your child is acting out more than usual or aren’t enjoying the activities they normally do, think about having a discussion with them to determine is bullying is a factor.

Nutrition and Exercise

Great nutrition and exercise are vital for childhood development. Healthy foods help children stay alert and focused during school. Exercise is a natural antidepressant and can fend off childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. Sleep is also important; being well-rested can help children retain information and stay focused during school.

Dr. Seema Csukas is the medical director for CareSource Georgia. Dr. Csukas has more than 20 years of experience in health care leadership, serving as the medical director for both Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Department of Public Health. She has also made extensive contributions in the field of neonatal, maternal and infant health policy. 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. For more information, visit www.caresource.com.