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Getting a healthy start to the school year

While your kids enjoy the last of their carefree summer days, you may be gearing up to tackle the inevitable list of back-to-school errands and tasks.

In the midst of shopping for supplies and filling out forms, take some time to focus on your child’s health needs. When your child is physically ready to greet the new school year, he’ll feel better prepared mentally to take on the academic challenges ahead.

Make an eye appointment

According to the American Optometric Association, 1 in 4 children has a vision problem significant enough to affect their performance at school. Kids who have trouble seeing may not be aware of their problem because they assume everyone sees like they do, so yearly vision checkups are important.

If you notice your child sitting too close to the TV, holding reading materials close to the face, squinting, rubbing eyes or favoring one eye, these can be indicators they are having trouble seeing. Headaches, eye pain or double vision are also common symptoms that should prompt a visit to the eye doctor. Correcting vision with eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision therapy will help your child gain confidence and perform better in the classroom.

Get vaccinated

Students are required to receive certain vaccinations before attending school to help prevent against illnesses such as mumps, chickenpox, whooping cough and meningitis. Most of these vaccines require repeat doses at certain ages and intervals, so check with your child’s doctor to make sure he’s up to date for the coming school year.

Additionally, make sure everyone in your family gets a flu shot before the flu season in the fall and winter months. Flu shots are available beginning around Labor Day. Flu can be especially dangerous for young children, so your whole family should take precautions to prevent the flu and avoid passing it on.

Set healthy sleep routines

Children need nine to 12 hours of sleep per night to thrive physically, mentally and academically. Your child’s sleep schedule has likely shifted during the summer, so plan to get back into a consistent routine before school starts.

Well before the first day of school, start transitioning to a school-friendly sleep schedule, adjusting bedtimes by 10 to 15 minutes every day. Create a nighttime routine that includes winding down screen time at least one hour before bed and encouraging quiet, relaxing activities such as reading a book. Try to maintain a consistent waking time throughout the week. Promote healthy sleep habits and make sleep a priority for the entire family.

With these tips, your healthy child will be prepared to embrace the new school year. Happy learning!

Dr. Brent Matsumoto is a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Waipio Medical Office.

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