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Is your little one set for the big day?

After the long summer break from school, is your child ready to get back into the classroom? Whether they’re starting at a new school or a new grade level, it can be stressful for children to return to the schedule and responsibility of classes. 

As you prepare to send them back to school, you likely have many to-do lists — but be sure to include their health among your priorities.

“One way to smooth their transition is by creating a back-to-school health checklist to make sure their developing bodies are ready for another successful year,” says Dr. Maria Alexies Osorio Samonte,  a pediatrician at Geisinger Mountain Top. “Going back to school can be physically taxing, even if your child has been playing outside all summer.”

Here are some ways to guarantee a healthy school year, even before putting your kids on the bus. 

Immunizations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices have both published recommendations on childhood immunizations, but each state has its own list of mandatory immunizations to attend public school. 

“Parents should review these guidelines online or ask their pediatrician about the required immunizations,” says Dr. Samonte. “For example, to begin kindergarten in Pennsylvania, a child needs their hepatitis B, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) IPV (polio), MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines.”

Many of these are covered by your insurance and can be easily administered by your child’s doctor

Allergy tests 

If you’ve been noticing your child has a runny nose or swelling over the summer, there’s no better time to discuss potential allergies with their physician; a new school year can mean a whole slew of new allergens.

The doctor will look for a variety of symptoms and risk factors, including family history—if both parents have an allergy, it’s highly likely that the child will too. They may also prescribe skin or blood tests which can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days to get results. 

“Allergy tests aren’t foolproof, but it’s helpful to have an idea of your child’s triggers before sending them into a new environment,” says Dr. Samonte, “especially if they have been showing symptoms at home.”

Vision screening

If your child comes home and mentions they’re having trouble seeing the chalkboard in school, don’t fret! 

“Our eyes continue to grow until after puberty,” says Dr. Samonte, “so changes in vision are still possible. Trouble with vision can make it difficult for your child to perform well in school, so it’s best to have them screened at the first sign of an issue.”

Beyond prescriptions for glasses or contacts, a regular check-up with their optometrist will guarantee overall eye health as well.

Creating a sleep schedule

After weeks of open schedules and on-demand play, it can be hard to readjust to a full-time schedule of classes and after-school activities. To be at the top of their game, kids need plenty of sleep to keep up with their health and responsibilities.  

“School-aged children and teens should be getting between eight and 11 hours of sleep per night,” says Dr. Samonte. “Getting enough rest not only helps them perform in the classroom, it also helps with growth, heart health, weight control and boosts the immune system.”

Also, it’s important to limit electronics before bed, as it inhibits the onset of sleep. You can ease kids into their regular schedules over a few weeks, and consider incentives for going to bed on time.

Just in time to kick off a healthy new school year, the staff at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre will host a free health and wellness fair for children and families. The Back to School Wellness Fair will be from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 20, in the main lobby of Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre, 25 Church St., Wilkes-Barre, PA. To sign up for this interactive event, register online at geisinger.org/events.

Next steps:

Make an appointment with Maria Alexies Osorio Samonte, MD
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Learn more about pediatric care at Geisinger
Children getting on a school bus

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