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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 just 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 ensure that their developing bodies are ready for another successful year,” said Dr. Stephanie Kelleher, a Geisinger family physician. “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 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) 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,” said Dr. Kelleher. “For example, to begin kindergarten in Pennsylvania, a child needs their hepatitis B, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) IPV (polio) and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines.”

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

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 doctor; 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 infallible, but it’s helpful to have an idea of your child’s triggers before sending them into a new environment,” said Dr. Kelleher, “especially if they have been showing symptoms at home.”

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

“Our eyes continue to grow until after puberty,” said Dr. Kelleher, “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 your optometrist will ensure 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 eleven hours of sleep per night,” said Dr. Kelleher. “Getting enough rest not only helps them perform in the classroom, it helps with growth, heart health, weight control and boosts your 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 might consider incentives for going to bed on time.

Stephanie Kelleher, DO, is a primary care physician at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kelleher or another primary care physician, please call 570-808-8780 or visit Geisinger.org. 


Just in time to kick off a healthy new school year, the staff at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre (GSWB), a campus of Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, 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. 28, in the main lobby of GSWB, 25 Church St., Wilkes-Barre. To sign up for this interactive event, register online at www.geisinger.org/events or call 570-808-3748.