Believe it or not, it’s time for you to think about sending your little ones back to school. The list doesn’t stop with pencils, backpacks, and new clothes - you also need to prepare a back to school health checklist. Children need to be healthy and alert in order to do well in school, which means you need to get ready for everything from physicals to eye exams and schedule some home schooling on germ warfare.

Where should you start? Call your doctor. Your children’s health care provider will make sure that they have all of the necessary immunizations. You can also do some homework on this yourself by checking out the schedule of suggested immunizations a child should receive, as posted on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Keep in mind, however, that the final decision is up to you and the doctor.

Your child’s doctor should also perform a physical that can identify any hidden health problems to make sure that your young students are ready for the first day of class, such as hearing tests and eye exams.

Once all of that is out of the way, it’s time to talk with your children about germs and how they spread. Teach them when and how to properly wash their hands with warm, soapy water after using the bathroom, before eating and when they come home from school. It may sound simple but it is the best way to battle germs that hitch a ride home on the school bus.

Also, make sure your children know what to do when they need to cough or sneeze. Make sure they carry tissues or, if necessary, sneeze into the inside of their elbow instead of in their hands. While it may be nice to share some things it’s not good to share germs, so talk with your kids about not sharing food, drinks, clothes, hats, or hairbrushes with their friends. Head lice is another classroom pest that can be avoided by practicing these good health habits.

During summer vacation, children fall out of their school day routine, often staying up later than usual and sleeping in. However, bedtime rituals are important during the school year so that young students have enough sleep and energy for a full day in class. Don’t wait until the night before school begins to get back in the routine. Instead, ease your children back into their sleep schedule by gradually imposing an earlier bedtime a few weeks before school begins.

You also need to make sure that your children use their backpacks correctly. It is uncertain whether or not heavy backpacks cause permanent damage in children, but overloaded and improperly worn backpacks can cause temporary back pain. For example, pediatricians urge parents to look for backpacks with individual compartments in which to keep sharp objects like pencil, and advise that heavier items should be placed closer to the body. Your child’s backpack should also have two shoulder straps for even weight distribution.

It is also important to get to know your child’s school nurse in the same manner that you get to know their teachers. Make sure that all of them know about any medical conditions or allergies that your children have.

Finally, keep your children home if they are sick and have a plan for sick days. Pediatricians stress that you should not send your child to school with a fever, as that means the immune system is trying to fight off something and your child may be contagious to other children and adults. Have a plan in place for last minute sick child care because the chances are that you will need it before the school year is over.

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