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PUBLISHED: 5:59 PM on Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Back to school tips to keep your children healthy, safe
It is hard to believe that school will be starting in just a few weeks. Most would agree that it seems that we have barely had a summer here in Juneau and our students will be heading back to school on Sept. 2.

There are a few things that we all need to keep in mind as we are preparing our children to go back to school helping students make the most of their educational experience. Getting back into the swing of things, getting back on a schedule and looking forward to the new school year can be a fun and exciting time.

Part of that preparation is making sure that our children are safe and healthy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) making sure your child is immunized is one of the easiest and most important things that you can do to make sure your children grow up healthy and free from the effects of serious, vaccine-preventable diseases. Immunizations are very safe thanks to medical research and ongoing review by doctors and researchers.

It is also recommended that parents consider having their child see their healthcare provider for a physical check up. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your school-age child have a complete history and physical exam, including weight and height, blood pressure, hearing and vision screening, and prevention counseling at least every two years.

The top five causes of missed school include colds, stomach flu, ear infection, pink eye and sore throat. Children in large groups are breeding grounds for the organisms that cause illness. The single most important thing that your child can do to prevent illness is to wash his or her hands thoroughly and frequently. Despite your best efforts, your child is going to get sick - especially during his or her first few years of contact with larger groups of children. A child's immunity will improve with time however, and school-age children gradually become less prone to common illnesses and recover more quickly from the diseases they do catch.

In addition to taking your child to the doctor to make sure that they are healthy, it is also recommended that families focus on promotion of healthy lifestyles. Eating healthy, being active and getting enough sleep go hand-in-hand with good learning. Children who eat healthy foods, have regular meals - including breakfast - and are active for at least 60 minutes each day are more likely to be successful.

One area that will impact everyone in our community is the safe travel of our young people to and from school. Drivers need to increase their awareness of pedestrians, especially as the daylight hours diminish.

Things that students can do to help protect themselves while walking or biking include traveling with a buddy and wearing reflective or bright color clothing to increase visibility. Respect traffic lights and street signs and use designated cross walks when crossing the street. If your child is waiting for a school bus, instruct them not to play in the street.

Nationwide, over 50 percent of bicycle-related injuries involve children. Make sure that children ALWAYS wear a bicycle helmet when riding a bike or scooter. Make sure that helmets meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPCS) standard - wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.

A few tips for starting the school day in the right direction:

Get enough sleep. Not only is sleep necessary for a healthy body, it is important for our brains too. Most kids between the ages of 5 and 12 get about 9.5 hours a night but most experts agree that 10 or 11 hours each night is ideal. When our bodies do not get enough hours of rest, we see the effects, such as feeling tired or cranky and the inability to think clearly. Another reason to get enough sleep - lack of rest may inhibit growth. Researchers believe that too little sleep can affect growth and immune systems.

Start your day with a healthy breakfast. Imagine that you are a car. After a long night of sleeping, your fuel tank is empty. Breakfast is the fuel that gets you going so that you can hit the road (this advice goes for adults too). Just like with other meals, try to eat a variety of foods, including; grains (breads and cereals), protein (meats, beans, and nuts), fruits and vegetables, and mild, cheese and yogurt.

Congratulations on a new school year - most of all, remember to be safe and stay healthy!

On the web

For more information about preparing your child for school you may find the following sites helpful:

• The American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.aap.org/parents.html

• Walk to school safety tips http://www.usa.safekids.org/walk-to-school/safetyTips.html

• Federal Citizen Information Center, Pueblo, Colorado: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cfocus/

• Kids.gov - the official kid's portal for the US government: http://www.kids.gov/


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