Don’t Forget Your Lunch!
Back-to-School Health Tips From a School Nurse
By Sandra Fong, RN
Nobody can get it all done and be the perfect parent. Pick one or two goals for a healthier school year and take a baby step in the right direction
As the back-to-school season is in full swing, parents are busy filling backpacks and teacher wish lists and squeezing into that last spot on the after-school care roster. Among all the activities and supplies, parents should also make sure to do a quick health check-in!
Fueling Your Body with food
Snacks and meals are an important part of the “fuel” children need to get through their days.
For children who struggle with healthy eating, try to ensure that there are some healthy snacks and lunch options available in your home. Every parent has periods when stress from work and life carve away from healthy habits. Some mornings chips and candy may be the only things that find their way to a child’s backpack! It seems better than being hungry, right?
Sleep habits for success
While every parent certainly understands a chaotic morning, try to stock your kitchen with healthy options so that they’re easy to grab when packing school lunches. Look for snacks or meals higher in protein and fiber with low amounts of added sugar to give your child a healthier option. Have some grab-and-go fresh fruits available, such as bananas or mandarin oranges. Ask your child if they have ideas for healthy snacks to keep on hand.
A helpful sleep schedule can often be the first casualty of summer activities.
A parent may want to adjust their child’s sleep schedule to an early bedtime before school starts, but the last summer outing, trip, or time with friends can sometimes get in the way. If your child starts off the school year in sleep debt, that’s okay, but try to make sure they don’t stay there!
Some older children who are natural night owls may stay up until the early morning hours during the summer. It can be hard to make the switch to a healthier bedtime suddenly. Help your child to set a goal of going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier every night until they get to an appropriate bedtime. Check reputable health websites such as health.clevelandclinic.org for further information about how to make sure children are getting enough sleep.
mental helth is important
It’s also just as important to check on a child’s mental health as they go back to school.
Take time to make sure your child is adjusting to their new school year. What are they most excited about for the school year? What are they worried about? Is anything making them sad or anxious? Listen to their concerns. If your child seems persistently anxious or sad, then make an appointment to see their primary care provider. Healthcare professionals can help parents to figure out what is normal sadness or anxiety and what is problematic. Email your child’s provider before the appointment so they can make sure to address your concerns. For additional resources, some schools received increased funding during the 2020-2021 school year and are now able to offer mental health counseling to students onsite at school. Check your school’s website for details.
Vaccinations to reduce illness
Get a covid vaccine or booster shot for everyone in your family five or older.
The CDC recommended a booster for children in the 5-11 age group after Pfizer released data showing it caused a 36-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies. Vaccine effectiveness drops from 60.1% effective in preventing symptomatic disease to 28.9% in the two months after the second dose. The numbers are similar for teenagers.
Of course, all parents wish that they could protect their children from Covid-19 with simple measures such as healthy eating, taking vitamins, or plenty of exercises. While a Cleveland Clinic study showed that losing weight helped adults avoid a severe infections, vaccines are still one of our most effective tools. Even with decreased vaccine effectiveness during the current omicron era, a New England Journal of Medicine study showed that the vaccine was still 79% effective at preventing admission to a critical care unit in teenagers.
There are so many things for parents to be worried about these days!
Nobody can get it all done and be the perfect parent. Pick one or two goals for a healthier school year and take a baby step in the right direction. Small changes today can snowball into a healthier tomorrow!
Sandra Fong is a freelance writer, an RN, and a former school nurse. She lives in Scotts Valley with her husband and three kids.
Funding for mental health resources in schools – lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/4368#:~:text=Approved%20by%20California%20voters%20as,programs%20serving%20all%20age%20groups.
Vaccine effectives drops to 28.9% in kids after 2nd shot – contagionlive.com/view/covid-19-vaccine-effectiveness-among-children-dropped-during-omicron-wave-increased-with-booster
Booster increases antibody titers 36 fold – contagionlive.com/view/covid-19-vaccine-effectiveness-among-children-dropped-during-omicron-wave-increased-with-booster
Covid vaccines 79% effective at preventing a critical care admission – cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/03/covid-vaccine-prevents-40-omicron-hospital-stays-teens-68-kids