It’s back-to-school time, which for most parents means a shopping list full of school supplies and new clothes. But between the pencils and polos, don't forget to plan for your kids' health and wellness too.
Methodist Family Health Centers has an easy checklist to make gearing up for the healthy year ahead a no-brainer.
Don’t skip the physical
Whether in kindergarten or college, all students will benefit from a first-of-the-year physical. This is a chance to meet with your doctor to get the lowdown on any illnesses going around and what to be aware of as the school year begins.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The doctor will also make sure your child is hitting all the normal physical and mental milestones and can help with suggestions to focus on any areas that may need attention. If your son or daughter plays a sport, a physical exam is a great opportunity to talk about the exercise program and demands of that after-school activity. Don't have a primary care physician? Here's why you should get one.
Stay up-to-date on vaccines
Public and private schools have a mandated list of the minimum vaccines that must be given before enrollment. This includes diptheria, polio, pertussis, measles, hepatitis b, and mumps, among others. Some of these shots require multiple doses and are given to students as old as high-school age.
Not all vaccines — such as influenza — are required, so always ask the physician if you’re not sure. Vaccine exemptions do exist; check with the school if you believe your child falls under this category.
Beware of the backpack
Everyone feels sorry for the kid carrying the overloaded backpack, but it turns out there are harmful implications that last beyond a long night of homework. Carrying an overweight backpack can cause stress and tension in a child’s torso, neck, and back, and have long-lasting effects. There are a few key things to look for when shopping: the bag itself should be lightweight, have two wide shoulder straps with padding, a waist belt, multiple compartments, and a padded back. These features will increase comfort and ensure a more even weight distribution.
If you think your child’s backpack looks too bulky, simply weigh it. A good rule of thumb is to never let the bag exceed 15-20 percent of your child’s body weight. For example, if you have a 75-pound child, the bag should be between 11 and 12 pounds maximum.
Nutritious foods can do wonders for the immune system. Ask your child’s school if there is a healthy lunch program available; many schools now have nutritious options with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
If you prefer to brown-bag it, opt for the healthiest versions of your kids’ favorite foods. Use whole wheat or sprouted bread for sandwiches, include fresh fruits, and look for nutrient-dense crackers and snacks. Natural meal bars and trail mixes are easy to find and are loaded with dried fruits and nuts. They make for healthy (and easy) additions to sack lunches.
Try as you may, your kids will probably never eat as many fruits and vegetables as you’d like. Luckily, there are high-quality vitamins and supplements available for kids that will help maintain a strong immune system, and some of them don’t taste like vitamins at all. Younger kids will love gummy supplements, or try powdered and liquid vitamins that can be easily hidden in yogurt, smoothies, and juices.
Not sure what your child needs? Ask the pediatrician and use your local health-food or vitamin store as a resource. Most health-focused retail stores have reference books and trained personnel to guide you in the right direction.
Don’t overlook health and wellness this school year. Stay proactive; a little planning and foresight can go a long way. Click here to find a Methodist Family Center near you.