The Back-to-School Health Checklist
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Keeping our children healthy and in top shape for back-to-school season may get overwhelming at times. With hundreds of health flyers from school or nursery and doctors warning us about the weather, immunisations and vision tests, many mummies say: “But we are not doctors!”
Here are some ways to make sure the children stay healthy and happy throughout school season:
- Get their vision tested. It is often very difficult for parents to make the observation that their child is suffering from vision problems, even though it is very common for children to not see properly out of one of their eyes.
- Check on the necessary shots with your paediatrician. As this is a controversial topic, it is best to consult them on the matter so that they can give you a clear picture which is in line with Ministry of Health guidelines for that particular time of year.
- Update emergency information. The school needs to have all of the required numbers. Apart from a designated relative’s and yours, they often need your doctor and dentist’s numbers as well. If you ever change your number, which we know happens a lot, remember to call the school and update it immediately.
- The school nurse needs to be familiar with any medication your child is taking, even if they only take it at home. Any health problems, including allergies, should be made known to the school. Also inform the school of any physical restrictions, including asthma or a scoliosis brace.
- Make sure you have the right school supplies. In terms of backpacks, in which they tend to carry plenty of books and stationary, they should be rolling/wheeled rather than carried on the back. For when they need to carry them, backpacks need to have wide straps and a padded back.
- Be sure your child gets sufficient sleep, ideally eight hours every night, and consume a healthy, nutritious breakfast every morning. Check on what the school will be feeding the children as nutrition is an essential part of your children’s mental and physical development; if you are not happy with the options, plan ahead with healthy, balanced lunchboxes.
1. When should mothers keep their children off school?
Parents often have a hard time deciding whether their kids are healthy enough to go to school or not. To make it easier, your child is too ill to go to school if they have any of the below symptoms:
- Look very tired and need bed rest. These are common symptoms of the flu
- Have diarrhoea or are vomiting
- Are wheezing
- Have a cough
- Have earache, headache and a sore throat
- Have yellow or green drainage from their eyes
Children should also avoid school when their temperature is soaring up to 50 degrees Celsius, especially young children as they can quickly lose body fluids through perspiring, which can lead to dehydration. Ensure they drink water regularly and wear light clothing.
Here are a few signs of dehydration:
- Seem tired and sluggish
- Have sunken or dark eyes
- Are irritable
- Look pale
- Have a dry and coated-looking tongue and mouth
- Have a high temperature
- Vomit or have diarrhoea
- Are not eating or drinking properly
2. What are the main things we should teach our children in order for them to stay healthy during school days?
Eating healthy at a young age can earn benefits for a lifetime, therefore parents and schools need to encourage eating right and staying physically active to instil good habits.
Parents should provide children with nutritious snacks for school as snacking helps manage hunger and boost energy for long hours. Snacks can include granola bars, vegetables such as cucumber or carrot with dips, fruit smoothies or yoghurt with fruits.
Dr Hala Fikri Mohammed El-Hagrasi
Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi