MD Mom’s Tips for a Healthy School Year


Written by Dr. JJ Levenstein, M.D., FAAP, president and co-founder of MD Moms
With the school year under way, children’s health should be a top priority for every family. Whether your little one has just started pre-school or is back to high school after a long summer break, making sure your child is healthy is vital to academic success. The following tips will ensure the entire family stays happy and healthy in these first few weeks of school and throughout the rest of the year.

Maintain healthy eating habits all day long. To maximize your child’s learning, make sure to leave time for a healthy breakfast. Without food to fuel their brains, children may find concentrating and learning in class difficult. A healthy, complete breakfast should include complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains and fruit), as well as protein and plenty of water. Avoid beverages high in sugar in order to avoid a potential high/low sugar surge. At school, lunch and snack times give children the energy boost they need to maintain their momentum all day long. When preparing food for your child to take to school, make sure to include different food groups, such as protein, dairy, vegetables and fruit. Examples of healthy snacks that can help your child refuel and stay focused on schoolwork include low-fat cheese sticks, nuts, whole-wheat crackers and yogurt.

Don’t put too much stress on the back. Your child’s spinal health is important to keep in mind each school year. When a child’s backpack is too heavy or worn incorrectly,muscles can fatigue or become overused, leading to back pain and muscle imbalance. Make sure your child’s backpack is the right size for his or her body and frame. Also, pack the heaviest items closest to the back, with lighter items in the front. One of the most important things to remember about backpack safety is that a child’s backpack should not weigh anymore than 10 to 20 percent of his or her body weight.

Sun protection shouldn’t end with summer vacation. Although students are in the classroom most of the day, they are often outside during recess, lunch and after-school activities. These activities happen in the peak UV sun hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.). Frequently, children are sent out to play without the protection of sun block, hats or sunglasses. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using at least an SPF 15 sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection. As a general rule, use one ounce of sunscreen (the size of a shot glass, or a palm full) per application. A good practice is to apply sunscreen in the car, enroute to school. Encourage your child to re-apply at lunchtime and after school if anticipating afternoon outdoor activities. MD Moms’ Baby Silk Babysafe Sunscreen Towelettes, for example, contain SPF 30+ physical sunscreen and are easy to pack in your child’s book bag. Just be sure to check with your school before packing sunscreen, as some administrators require a doctor’s note prior to allowing a child to self-apply sun protection.

Don’t forget yearly checkups. Annual checkups with your child’s healthcare provider are pertinent to their learning success, and in fact many schools require them. At these checkups, children usually are screened for vision and hearing problems, allergies, anemia, sleep dysfunction and other issues that could hinder academic performance. Seeing your child’s doctor annually is a proactive way to avoid problems such as having trouble seeing the blackboard or hearing teachers speak.

Beware of germs. Sicknesses ranging from common colds to more serious maladies can spread easily between children during the school day. In order to curtail the spread of germs, make sure to teach your child the importance of washing his or her hands before meals and snacks, and encourage your child to NOT share food or beverages with other children, and practice “covering his cough”. Also, at your child’s annual checkup, make sure immunizations are up to date. Equipping your child with a small container of wipes or hand sanitizer makes remembering easy.

Extra points for staying active. By sitting behind a desk all day, children have less time for physical activity during the school year than they do in the summer. As a parent, you can find creative ways to maximize your time with your child by being active together. Turn on music and dance, have a pillow fight, race while walking home from school or clean the house together — anything to increase everyone’s heart rate and benefit cardiovascular health. Try to walk or bike to school, distance permitting.

Z’s lead to A’s. The more sleep a child gets, the better he or she is able to concentrate and excel in school. The school day can be exhausting and it is a parent’s job to make sure a child gets enough sleep to remain alert and refreshed throughout the school day. Generally, preschoolers need 12 hours (which can include naptime), kindergarteners need 11 hours, and children eight and older need an average of 10 hours. A healthy amount of sleep is important for both your child’s physical and emotional well-being.

[box]About Dr. JJ Levenstein
Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics with a private pediatric practice in Encino, Calif. She serves on the clinical staff of two hospitals and has been voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2004 through 2012. Drawing on her experience as a pediatrician and a mom, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, maker of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms.[/box]

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