Back-To-School Health Tips

With back-to-school season in full swing, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a practicing family physician from the Greater Vancouver area, wants parents to know what precautions they should take in order to safeguard their children’s health.

GermsGerms are one of the biggest worries for parents when it comes to sending their kids to school. On average, a child can develop as many as 8 colds each school year, which is why it’s so important to teach your kids the valuable lesson of good hygiene habits at an early age. Examples of good hygiene habits include washing hands regularly as well as keeping your mouth covered when coughing. By doing this, your child helps to prevent the spread of germs that can cause the common cold or flu – both of which can be viral or bacterial, requiring antibiotic treatment and in some cases, hospitalization depending on the severity.

Prior to your child heading back to school, it is a good idea to take them to see your family doctor for a check-up to make sure they’re virus-free and healthy. You should also make sure your child’s vaccines are up-to-date prior to the start of the school year. Excluding Ontario and New Brunswick, vaccinations are not mandatory in Canada. However, they are still recommended. Some schools also offer immunizations to students in 6th and 9th grades, such as the tetanus shot, the chickenpox vaccine, the hepatitis A vaccine, the HPV vaccine, as well as the meningococcal vaccine. You can find more information on the benefits of these vaccinations by visiting Immunize BC’s website at immunizebc.ca.

Going back to school also means that there will be an increase in sports-related injuries due to physical education classes and after-school recreational activities such as soccer, basketball, etc. One of the reasons why there is this increase is because children tend to be less active during the summer months than they are when they are in school; therefore their muscles become weaker as a result. This can lead to muscle strains, joint sprains and fractures. Parents should also watch out for signs of concussions, such as headaches, dizziness, confusion, mood swings, memory loss, nausea and vomiting. If you suspect your child may have a concussion it is important to get them medical attention right away.

Food Allergies / PeanutsParents may also be concerned about food allergies. While many schools across Canada have a policy when it comes to having allergens in a school environment (such as peanuts), it is still important to let school staff know about your child’s allergy ahead of time. That way the school or class your child is in can take extra precautions to ensure that they do not get exposed to anything they’re allergic to.

Lastly, make sure your child has healthy lunches packed for school. Rather than including sugary sweets and carbonated sodas, give them fruits, vegetables and fruit juices. For children who are younger, parents may have a hard time getting them to eat healthy, so try to get creative and make their meals fun – you can cut their sandwiches into shapes using cookie cutters, or can even offer some kind of at-home reward system. Many schools across Metro Vancouver also offer lunch programs to promote healthy eating. To find out whether or not your child’s school has a program like this available, check with your local school district.