Back to School

Tips for a healthy start to the school year and beyond

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comJuly 22, 2013 

Whether your child is going off to college for the first time or just entering kindergarten, schools seem to be incubators for illness.

Before the new school year starts, and even when it does, here are a few things you should know about keeping you child safe and healthy.

Before school starts

COLLEGE STUDENTS

■ Students planning to live on campus will likely need up-to-date immunizations including the meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine. Check with a primary care doctor and the school to determine which vaccines are needed.

For students who smoke or have a history of asthma, diabetes, liver disease or immune suppression should also consider a pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine. Physicians may recommend the HPV vaccine for females and males up to age 26.

■ Flu vaccine is recommended for children and adults, especially college students living in dorms. The flu vaccine typically becomes available in around September or October.

FOR STUDENTS IN KINDERGARTEN TO 12TH GRADE

■ Before entering school, Kentucky requires proof of an preventative health care examination, an eye examination and a dental screening conducted a year before school begins. Also, check with your primary care doctor for required vaccines. Children will need proof of vaccination before entering school.

■ A preventative health care examination is required within one-year of entry into the sixth grade, along with another series of vaccinations.

■ Students planning to participate in sports should schedule a sports physical.

■ An annual physical can help identify and track potential health concerns.

Once school starts

■ Encourage children of all ages to wash their hands, especially after using the bathroom. Provide anti-bacterial soap for when kids can't access soap and water.

■ As much as possible encourage your child not to share cups and utensils and to clean their hands after using communal tools, like scissors.

■ Not contributing to the germy environment is important so encourage others to cover their cough.

■ If child has a temperature of more than 100 degrees, keep them home. This will not only help them recover more quickly but also keep them from getting other kids sick, which will cycle back to you. They need to be fever-free for 24 hours without medication before they return to school.

■ Help your student get enough sleep, eat a proper diet and make sure they are getting vitamin supplements as needed. This will help maintain their overall health.

At home

If possible keep the sick person in your house away from others while they are contagious, which can be a total of five to seven days before and after there are symptoms.

■ Just like at school, the sick person should cover his or her mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash.

■ Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.

Sources: KentuckyOne Health, Lexington Fayette-County HealthDepartment, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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