Summer holidays are in full swing, but already I’m sure mums are planning the back-to-school campaign – books, uniforms, sports gear and haircuts. The holiday period is a fantastic family time, however come September. most of us are ready for the routine and discipline that school brings. Now is an opportune time to consider our children’s health before they return to school for another year full of learning, playing and growing. Here, we’ll look at some tips for ensuring our kids are healthy in school:
Always emotive, vaccinations are without doubt one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine. They have helped to eliminate and reduce the incidence of illnesses such as small pox, diphtheria, measles and mumps. Make sure your kid’s vaccinations are up to date, especially those starting in Junior Infants. As a practicing GP, I have seen many cases of mumps in the last few years, and a simple, safe vaccine can protect your children from this and other illnesses. Vaccinations are free of charge with your GP or public health nurse.
2. Bed time
During the holiday period, bed times slip and kids tend to stay up late – it’s all part of the fun of the holidays! However, with school just a few weeks away, it's time to start to reverse this routine and ensure that kids (and adults!) are getting enough sleep. Kids at school need nine to 11 hours’ sleep per night if they are going to be able to perform and concentrate the next day.
It’s a constant battle, isn’t it? Brush your teeth morning and evening, wash your hands and face, wash your hands after going to the toilet - our kids need constant reminders. With lots of germs lurking around classrooms and school toilets, it’s important to make sure our kids go to school with this mantra ringing in their ears!
4. Illness and medication
If your child has an existing medical condition like asthma, diabetes or epilepsy, make sure that the school authorities know about it. A written plan with respect to taking medication, and what to do if your child is unwell, is helpful. If your child has any allergies, please ensure the school is aware. Peanuts, eggs and bee-stings are among the common childhood allergies, and the school authorities must be aware of your child’s allergies.
5. Childhood obesity is on the rise
During the holiday period, please be careful to encourage healthy treats and snacks, and keep sugary drinks and sweets to a minimum. Encourage healthy-eating so that your kids can enjoy a healthy lunchbox when at school. “Breakfast like a king” is the old saying, and certainly our kids should have a healthy meal to start the day.
Technology is permeating all our lives, and our kids are no exception. It can be difficult to control access to PCs, smart phones and tablets during the holidays. Limit time in front of screens to an hour per day and encourage outdoor pursuits, where our kids can burn up those calories and ensure they are tired at bed time for a restful sleep.
Eye problems are relatively common in childhood and sometimes are not picked up until kids are going to school. Some warning signs include holding books very close when reading, closing one eye to see better (while looking at a book or watching television, for example), looking cross-eyed, having an eye which turns out, not being able to distinguish certain colours, or having difficulty seeing objects that are potential hazards, such as steps, curbs, and walls.
Most kids, like most adults, take everything in their stride. However, back to school can be a stressful time for some parents and children. Help your kids by talking about school in a positive way. “It’ll be great to see your friends”, or “Lessons next year will be exciting...”, rather than “School is starting in two weeks and things are going to change around here them”.Worry around the return to school can cause children to feel sad and sleep poorly. Plenty of sleep and exercise, a healthy diet, and positive messages around the return to school can all help reduce this worry.
Enjoy the last few weeks of summer folks, but it is time to start thinking about back to school and keeping our kids healthy for winter!