August 22, 2011 - Nurses play an integral role in a child’s wellbeing, from health screenings and preventive care to first aid and emergency care. With the start of a new school year, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has a few tips for parents to help optimize students’ health, safety, and capacity for learning.
1. Make sure immunizations are current
Review your child or teen's vaccination records and make sure that he/she is up to date on all shots before heading back to school. Most schools will require proof of current immunization in order to attend. Visit www.anaimmunize.org/schools for general information on which vaccinations your child will need. Ask your school nurse if you have questions.
2. Don’t forget an eye exam
Healthy vision is an important part to the learning process and success in school. Experts believe that approximately 80 percent of learning comes through vision. Your child should get an eye exam every two years. Ask about special testing for eye teaming disorders if your child struggles to read.
3. Establish a routine before school starts
Summer months usually mean a more flexible bedtime. Before school begins, start setting an earlier bedtime to make sure your child is used to a school schedule.
4. Have a contingency plan
Make a plan today for disasters and sick days. Who will take care of your child if he or she is ill? Most schools require that a child be free of fever for 24 hours (without any fever reducing medicine) before they return to school. Be sure to keep your contact information up to date so the school can contact you in an emergency.
5. Prepare the school
If your child has health issues (allergies, asthma, diabetes, etc.), it’s important to inform the school, and to provide medications or supplies. You can help the school develop a plan for daily care and emergencies.
6. Get to know the school nurse
Ask if a school nurse is available full time, and onsite. Federal and state laws exist to ensure that your child has access to safe and appropriate care. Contact the National Association of School Nurses if you have a question, www.nasn.org.
7. Stay safe on the street
Develop and review safety instructions for walking to school or waiting for a bus, including reminders about what to do if approached by a stranger.
8. Eat for health and learning
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Plan ahead to send a healthy lunch and snacks to school; review menu options to help guide healthy choices. Make sure that your child has access to water throughout the day.
9. Keep it clean
Your child will be exposed to all sorts of germs and viruses while at school. Teach your child to wash his/her hands, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating. If hand washing isn’t an option, make sure your child has access to hand sanitizer. Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue or his/her elbow.
10. Shop for safe supplies
To avoid injuries to the back and neck, a backpack should never be more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s weight. Consider a backpack with wheels, or make sure they have padded straps, and that your child uses both. Avoid school supplies with PVC plastics which can be toxic to your child. Information on safer alternatives for school supplies is available at http://www.chej.org/publications/PVCGuide/PVCfree.pdf.