The ABCs of Having a Healthy School Year

Aug 21, 2014


The first day of school always requires preparations — notebooks, pens and a new set of clothes. But don't forget to prepare for your child's health, says Dr. Joan Bregstein, a physician in the division of pediatric emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. Dr. Bregstein provides tips to parents and caregivers to help their kids get a smart start to the academic year.

  • Have your child's vision and hearing tested. It is important for children to have annual vision and hearing screenings. Young children often don't recognize that they may have inadequate vision, and many school-age children still have not had their hearing tested. If your child wears glasses, be sure that his or her prescription is current and if you notice your child listening to the TV or music at a loud volume, alert your doctor.
  • Be equipped for sports. All children who wear glasses should wear sports frames when participating in sports activities. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends one-piece wraparound polycarbonate sports frames for all contact sports, including soccer, field hockey and basketball, as well as gym class. Make sure protective gear such as helmets and shin guards fit comfortably and properly.
  • Are your child's immunizations up to date? Check with your child’s pediatrician. The last thing you want is for your child to be turned away from school on the first day because he or she was not properly immunized. If you have recently moved to another state, check to see if your child meets the new state’s regulations.
  • Does your child have an itchy scalp since camp ended? Your child may have contracted lice during the summer. It is important that you check your child’s head yourself. If you are unsure if your child has lice, contact the school nurse or your child's pediatrician. Head lice will not go away unless it's treated with over-the-counter remedies.
  • Does your child receive medication on a regular basis for diabetes, asthma or another chronic problem? School nurses and teachers must be made aware of your child’s health care issues and medication needs. Be sure to speak with them before school begins, and work out an emergency course of action in case of a problem. Make sure emergency medications are close at hand and can be easily found.
  • Is your child anxious and apprehensive? Most children are naturally anxious about the new school year. It normally takes about a month for children to adjust to new situations. A new school, fear of a class bully or taking a school bus for the first time may cause anxiety. If, after a few weeks, your child continues to be anxious and apprehensive, bring this to the attention of the teacher so that you can identify the source of the anxiety and work out a solution.
  • Has anything changed in your family dynamics? Changes in the family structure such as divorce death, a new person living in the home, or a recently unemployed parent can significantly affect a child's performance in school. Teachers should be forewarned so they can deal with the effects of these alterations in family structure.
  • Do you suspect a learning disability or dyslexia? If you suspect that your child is having difficulty processing information, speak to the teacher or learning center in your child's school as soon as possible. A professional diagnosis usually requires two days of testing.

"Your child will have a great year in school if you make sure that the teacher understands all of your child’s special needs," says Dr. Bregstein. "But remember, just as a child may be overwhelmed by school the first day, often so are the teachers."

NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, located in New York City, offers the best available care in every area of pediatrics — including the most complex neonatal and critical care, and all areas of pediatric subspecialties — in a family-friendly and technologically advanced setting. Building a reputation for more than a century as one of the nation’s premier children's hospitals, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital is affiliated with the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and is Manhattan's only hospital dedicated solely to the care of children and one of the largest providers of children's health services in the tri-state area with a long-standing commitment to its community. It is also a major international referral center, meeting the special needs of children from infancy through adolescence worldwide. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. The hospital is also closely affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report.

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