Back to School Health Tips

By Dr. Patricia Avila

Patricia Avila, MDSummer vacation has come to an end and it is now time to get BACK TO SCHOOL!! Here are some ways you can help your children and teens have a healthier school year. We’ve got 5 tips to help your child get off to a great start this school year!

1 – Annual Well Check and Vaccinations

Having an annual well check is the perfect opportunity to make sure your child/teen is developing and growing normally. Part of the well check is to detect health conditions that you may not be aware of such as:

• Checking their heart and blood pressure.
• Vision/hearing screenings.
• Obtaining labs checking for anemia, cholesterol, and diabetes.

During their well check the doctor also has an opportunity to educate you and your child/teen and for you to address any concerns/questions you may have. Vaccinations are also an important part of your child’s annual well check. They are one of the simplest and most proven ways to protect your child/teen from preventable diseases.

2 – Establishing healthy sleep habits

No matter their age all children and teens need proper sleep to stay focused and to learn. Sleep is just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Establish a regular sleep schedule to allow adequate sleep.

• Toddlers – young children ages 3-5 years need 10-13 hours of sleep per night.
• School age children ages 6-12 years need 9-11 hours of sleep per night.
• Teenagers ages 13-19 years need 8-9 hours of sleep per night.

AVOID all use of electronics 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. Electronics including cell phones, TV, tablets, video games, and computers if used prior to bedtime can interfere with your child/teens ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Instead, try having them read a book or choose a quiet activity prior to bedtime instead.

3 – Proper Nutrition

Studies show that eating a healthy, well balanced meal for breakfast improves your child’s/teen’s ability to do well in school by helping them focus and have increased energy to learn. Make sure to pack a healthy well-balanced lunch too! A well-balanced meal consists of:

• 1-2 servings of fruits/vegetables.
• A good source of protein (dairy – cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs, nuts/nut butters, lean meats, fish, beans/lentils, tofu).
• Whole grains – whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, quinoa.
• A good source of calcium and vitamin D like milk/milk products or almond/coconut/soy/rice/oat milk.

4 – Keeping your child/teen physically active

We have been seeing an increase in obesity over the past 30 years – the rate has
doubled-tripled in children and quadrupled in teens. Children and teens need 1 hour of physical activity per day. Exercise can be anything that keeps your children active including:

• Sports.
• Dancing.
• Biking.
• Swimming.
• Hiking.
• Jump rope.
• Trampoline.
• Chasing the family dog.
• Hula hooping.

The key is to make it fun and enjoyable. It is also helpful to make exercise a family event to increase motivation. Making exercise a part of the routine early with children will help them continue to be active adults.

5 – Homework and Study Habits

Help your child/teen form good study habits by having a quiet space free of distractions to help them stay focused. Keeping this space free of distractions includes setting aside electronic devices including:

• Phones.
• Tablets.
• TVs.

Set aside a designated time for homework to be completed. If you notice your child is struggling with learning and/or completing tasks, talk with your child’s teacher and doctor to help your child/teen succeed.