School is back in session, and parents have been testing me on ways their children can stay healthy during the school year.  Let me take on that assignment and provide a few back-to-school tips on preventing those sick days. 

An annual physical exam before the start of the school year will often make sure everything is fine to start with.  Keeping immunizations up to date is also very important. 

If your child does have a medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or even a food allergy, review what to do about it with the school nurse, including any medications that need to be administered while your child is at school.

Another good way to keep your children healthy is to make sure they wash their hands before eating lunch and when they get done with activities such as gym, where they can pick up germs from others through close contact. You might even put alcohol-based hand sanitizer packets in their backpacks to use if no sink is readily available.  Day care centers should have sinks within arm’s reach of the diaper table and a second one, also in the room, for toddler hand-washing.

Remind your children not to drink from the same cups or water bottles as other children to prevent the spread of germs.  And make sure they know not to share combs or brushes, since head lice can spread this way very easily.

Make sure your children get enough sleep: at least eight and more likely 10 hours every night.

Finally, make sure your children are fed a nutritious and balanced diet.  That starts with a good breakfast to ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy and perform well in school.

Hopefully with tips like these you’ll pass the test and go to the head of the class when it comes to keeping your children or toddlers healthy at school or child care this year. 

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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