Pediatric Health Experts at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Offer Helpful Back-to-School Tips to Parents
CONTACT: Amanda Hedlund at 323-361-7691
LOS ANGELES – August 22, 2012 – As children head back to the classroom, parents should consider an annual safety and health checklist. Experts at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles offer helpful back-to-school tips to avoid the emergency room and focus on healthy extracurricular and learning activities instead.
Topics range from childhood vaccines, bullying, comprehensive vision and hearing exams, playground safety, teens and texting and symptoms to common childhood conditions often discovered in the classroom.
- Busy and Distracted Children Can Encounter Health Issues
As children head back to the classroom, their schedule fills up with activities and homework. Countless hours are spent in front of the computer, television, smart phones, iPads and video games, but the distraction can also cause a child to hold their urge of using the restroom and may lead to constipation or urinary tract infections (UTI). “Kids don’t want to go to the bathroom at school; they don’t have time, so they drink and move around less,” says Dan Thomas, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Parents should limit their child’s time in front of electronics and encourage them to take frequent bathroom breaks. Exercise and routine are essential for healthy bowel movements in school-aged children.” If a child experiences symptoms of an UTI or constipation, make an appointment to see a doctor.
- Avoid Processed High-Salt Foods and Drinks in Packed Lunches
Urologists across the country have seen a rise of kidney stones showing up in young children due to high-salt diets. High-sodium foods and drinks such as frozen dinners, sandwich meats, chips, sports drinks and easy-pack meals should be consumed in moderation. “Keep an eye on the labels and beware of high-fat and processed foods,” says Steve Kim, MD, pediatric urologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Children may experience stomach pain or find blood in their urine if passing a kidney stone. Prevention can be as easy as staying hydrated with fluids, water is best, and instill a balanced diet for your child.”
- Bullying in the Classroom
Stop bullying before it starts. “Parents need to be a positive role model in how to treat others,” says Gloria Verret, RN, a RN Remedies nurse blogger at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “If your child sees you being rude and offensive to others, they may feel this is an acceptable behavior.” Open the lines of communication with your child by talking about the issue of bullying. Encourage your child to inform you right away when they, or someone they know, are being bullied at school or online. If your child feels unsafe at school, discuss this with the teacher immediately.
- Monitor Teen Texting: Setting Boundaries
Most schools restrict the use of cell phones, but 64% of teens still manage to text during class. “When it comes to the health and academic success of your teenager, parents can provide kids with choices and healthy boundaries,” says Kelli Anderson, RN, a RN Remedies nurse blogger at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “There are physical and mental pitfalls associated with adolescents who spend too much time text messaging. Issues caused by excessive text messaging include: antisocial behavior, self-esteem issues, cyberbullying, cell phone addiction and low grades are just a few to mention.” [Link RN Remedies article]
- Annual Eye Screenings
A comprehensive vision exam should be as routine as a normal physical or check-up before school starts. Studies conducted by the American Optometric Association indicate that 60% of children with learning difficulties actually suffer from undetected vision problems. As a parent, it is important to ensure that your child’s vision is at its best. “Good eyesight is a fundamental part of learning in the classroom, yet many children do not have the recommended annual eye screenings conducted at school or by pediatricians,” says Mark Borchert, MD a pediatric ophthalmologist in The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Parents should monitor symptoms and signs of vision problems throughout the school year as eye sight changes as children grow older.”
- Full Diagnostic Hearing Test
Make sure your child’s learning is at its best by getting their hearing tested. Kids are susceptible to chronic ear infections which can potentially lead to hearing loss. “Not all hearing problems can be detected by a school screening, so it’s important to have a full diagnostic test,” says Bea Smith, AuD, pediatric audiologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Hearing loss often goes undiagnosed which can lead to a longer learning curve for children, speech and language delays, and even behavioral problems due to the child not hearing or understanding instructions. It’s important to see an audiologist to be sure their hearing is adequate for communication.”
- Asthma and Allergy Action Plans for Teachers and School Nurse
Work with your child’s doctor or nurse to prepare an action plan for any health issues your child may encounter. “Review any medical records or prescription information with the school nurse or teachers to ensure proper dosage and care,” says Ronald Ferdman, MD, pediatric asthma and allergy specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Children with allergies or asthma may need special accommodations in their food or treatment to maintain normal activity levels.” Armed with the knowledge of how your child’s asthma or allergies can be triggered, you can take preventive measures.
Download a copy of an Asthma Action Plan or Food Allergy Action Plan.
- Playground Safety
Teaching children safe playground behaviors at home or in a public park is a first step to avoid injury at school. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 60% of all injuries are caused by falls to the ground. “It is critical for parents to actively supervise children and check for broken equipment and make sure children are wearing protective gear,” says Helen Arbogast, MPH, CHES, coordinator of the Injury Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Evaluate your child’s behaviors around others and that they follow the playground rules. Children tend to increase risk by using equipment intended for older children and by improperly using equipment, such as sliding down equipment backwards or jumping off monkey bars to enhance their adventure. Be sure to stop that behavior in its tracks to avoid a trip to the emergency room.”
- School Year Sleep Schedule
Transitioning from later summer vacation days into early school mornings is often difficult for children and teenagers. On average, children should get 8 to 12 hours of sleep per night. A sleep schedule will help establish a routine for your child throughout the school year and can improve study and homework habits as well. “Poor sleep habits can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems, hyperactivity and cognitive problems,” says Michelle A. Thompson, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital. “All of these problems can affect the way your child learns and behaves in a classroom.”
- Update Your Child’s Vaccinations
Check with your doctor to confirm that your child has received the recommended vaccinations to protect their health and from exposure to illnesses carried by other students at school,” says Jill Hoffman, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “It’s particularly important that children receive vaccines for pertussis (whooping cough), influenza, chicken pox, measles and other common infectious diseases.
To see a list of recommended vaccinations for different age groups, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) offers parents an online immunization schedule.
About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital in California and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of America's premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation since 1932 with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
For more information, visit CHLA.org. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, or visit our blog: WeAreChildrens.org.