Back-to-School Health Tips

With summer nearing conclusion, those of us in family medicine are busy seeing patients prior to the start of the new school year. In addition to providing physicals and required vaccinations at my MinuteClinic location in Burlingame, I use the opportunity during visits to offer parents and students some basic tips for a safe and healthy start to school.
Easing Fears
Whether your child is entering his or her first year, moving up to the next grade level or beginning at a new school, it’s only natural to be a bit nervous about the weeks to come. You can help manage anxiety by simply listening to concerns and offering positive words of encouragement. If they are starting at a new location, consider visiting the school ahead of time to walk the halls, see classrooms and become familiar with places like the cafeteria, gym and playground. Getting plenty of rest the first couple of weeks will help with the transition. It’s also important to start a school sleep schedule at least one week in advance.
Developing A Healthy Plan for Lunch
The anxiety and nervousness children feel often lead to a queasy stomach, so that’s one more reason to have a game plan when it comes to diet; especially if they are overweight. The CDC estimates that one in five school-aged children in the United States is obese. To get off to a positive start, I recommend talking about the options for school lunch. Most cafeterias offer healthy menus which are great choices. However, if your student overeats or is prone to picking less healthy choices that might still be available, then I recommend packing a nutritious lunch that is heavy on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Avoid or limit pre-packaged crackers, chips and cookies. Flavored or sparking waters are a great alternative to sodas and fruit juices that are loaded with sugar.
Hydrating Before Practice and Play
Although temperatures are milder in the Bay Area than other parts of California, teaching children about proper hydration, especially when outside, is key. Buy a fashionable water bottle they will feel comfortable taking to school and using. They should always drink water before and after recess, practice and games. Children and athletes who are overweight, diabetic or dealing with eating disorders and congenital heart conditions are most susceptible to hydration issues. The right amount of water or sports drink to consume varies with size, age and duration of activity. Here is a great resource about proper water intake:
Avoiding Germs
Now is the time to teach your kids – particularly the kindergarten students and first-graders – about proper hygiene.  It seems very basic, but reinforcing some key practices goes a long way in preventing germs from spreading. Four basic points are:

  • Wash hands with soap and water after using the restroom and before eating.
  • When sneezing or coughing, cover the nose and mouth with a tissue and throw it away. If a tissue is not available, sneeze into the sleeve rather than into the hands.
  • Don’t share drinks in the cafeteria or water bottles among friends.
  • Avoid sharing hats, head bands and towels, which can cause both germs and lice to spread.

Shortly after school begins, common illnesses are likely to develop. Strep throat, sinus infections and conjunctivitis, or pink eye, are most common early in the year.
If you think your child may have one of these conditions, see your primary care provider right away or visit a MinuteClinic location in the Bay Area inside select CVS Pharmacy stores. 
An antibiotic, a few days of rest and a note from a medical professional may be needed to promote recovery and limit exposure to other students. Another important way to keep your children from getting sick is getting them their annual flu vaccines before or immediately after the start of school. Flu shots will be widely available later this month.

Ami Narayan is a mother of two living in Redwood City and is a Nurse Practitioner at MinuteClinic inside the CVS Pharmacy store in Burlingame.


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