Dr. Chu, Medical Director of NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care

Freshly sharpened pencils, notebooks full of pages ready to be filled with new ideas—back to school is a very exciting time for kids. For parents, this time of year can mean more than just gathering supplies and packing a lunch. Here are a few simple tips to keep them healthy this fall:

Routine Check-ups – Most children get their annual check-ups and required immunizations with their primary care provider before the start of the school year, but dental exams and eye exams are also important for school-aged children. Eye exams can detect common problems, such as myopia (near-sightedness) and strabismus (eye misalignment) before they lead to worsening vision. Make sure to include them as part of your back to school routine!

Flu Shots – The flu is more than just the sniffles. Each year, it causes millions of children to get sick and thousands become hospitalized. Parents should talk to their child’s primary care provider to see when flu shots are available and which flu shot is appropriate for their child.

Hygiene – Teaching your children good hygiene practices may be the best way to prevent them from getting sick. Kids should make sure to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before eating. The recommended duration for hand washing is at least 20 seconds (or the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice).

Nutrition and Food Safety – Eating healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, and drinking adequate amounts of water are important for maintaining a strong immune system. But tell your child to beware of sharing: it can spread illnesses like strep throat and stomach viruses.

Sleep – Lack of sleep can lead not only to a weakened immune system, but also poor concentration in the classroom. Most school-aged children should be getting 9 to 11 hours of sleep every night. School usually means getting up earlier, so kids should be getting to bed earlier. Sticking to the same bedtime, even on the weekend, helps making going to bed on school nights easier.

These simple tips will help your little one stay healthy, but if your child does get sick, they may need to stay home from school. Rules may vary depending on the school, but in general, children should not go to school if they have fever within the last 24 hours, active vomiting or diarrhea, or eye redness with discharge. Staying home can help them get better faster and keep them from getting other children sick. Another easy way to think about it is if your child does not feel well enough to participate in school activities, they should stay home. When in doubt, you should consult a healthcare provider.

We hope your child has a wonderful, happy and healthy new school year! Come see us if your little one needs a little help after your doctor’s office is closed! Like your pediatrician, we’re here to make sure they thrive and make your night brighter.