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HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals offer back-to-school tips

As the remaining days of summer come to an end and a new school year is around the corner, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals want to remind parents that it’s time to prepare their children for the new school year ahead.

The two hospitals recommend the following back-to-school health tips to ensure a safe and healthy school year:

• Make sure your child is up to date on all vaccinations. Review your child's shot records and make sure that he/she is up to date on all shots before heading back to school. If not, be sure to make an appointment with your child’s physician.

• Schedule a physical. School and sports physicals are an important part of each school year, even if they are not mandated by the school. Yearly physicals enable your health care provider to monitor growth and development, update immunizations, determine risks for sports participation, and discuss safety issues.

• Hand washing. Before your child goes back to school, make sure he/she understands the importance of proper hand washing. Soap and water can do wonders in reducing your child's risk of illness while at school. A child should wash his/her hands properly before eating and after using the restroom, for at least 20 seconds each time. That’s approximately how long it takes to sing the “ABC’s” once, at a slow pace.

• Backpack safety.  Choose a backpack with wide shoulder straps and make sure your child uses both straps evenly across the back. Having all the weight over one shoulder can lead to muscle strain. Advise your child to pack lightly. A backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight. The backpack for an 80 pound child, for example, should not weigh more than 16 pounds.

• Eat a healthy lunch.  Most schools send school cafeteria menus home enabling you to plan your child’s lunches in advance. Pack a nutritious lunch on days your child prefers not to eat the school’s main course. Go over the menu with your child and discuss the nutritional value of what is being offered. Steer them away from soda and dessert and toward low-fat milk and fresh fruit.

• Get plenty of sleep. Make sure your child is getting an adequate amount of sleep at night to help aid in their overall health. On average, school-age children ages six to 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep each night. Teenagers 13 to 18 years old need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. If you notice any recurring sleep disturbances or recurring snoring in your child, he or she might have a sleep disorder. To find out for certain, make an appointment with your child’s physician.

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