Include wellness check among back to school supplies

School is back in session across the county, and on children’s guardian’s mind, is the safety and well-being of their children as they transition back into the classroom. Whether it be physical or mental concerns, UC San Diego Health pediatrician Dr. Vanessa Scott, MD, has several safety-tips for making the school year successful, for both students and their parents or guardians. The biggest thing Scott recommends for parents as a pediatrician is to ensure their children have had an annual wellness check within the year. “Whether your child has an issue or does not, we do need to see them once a year to assess their growth, development, and to make sure those issues are managed and treated appropriately,” adding wellness checks are needed for children ages 3 and older. “I try to remind my parents to bring any school forms, important forms if your child takes medications. And there should always be some form of an allergy action plan devised by the pediatrician or the pediatric allergist. Agreed with the parent, then given to the school.” Another important thing with wellness checks is vision and hearing screening, said Scott. “Sometimes, kids may be shy, or the just do not know that they cannot see the board as well as they can. Little clues. Like they always squint or go to the front of the room. We check those things and make sure everything looks great,” she said. Scott said children with multiple ear infections and have slightly damaged eardrums could have issues with speech, pronunciation. “The earlier we learn about those issues and intervene, the better the outcome,” she said. “Both vision and hearing are obviously so important for a very productive life.” Keeping up with annual vaccines is important in going back to school, said Scott, making sure that children are up to date. This includes routine immunizations including the annual flu shot which is out now. She said children six months to 9 years old, the first season they get the flu shot, they need a booster four weeks later. Then it is one flu shot each year. Scott said this year she has been asked much if children need flu shots this year since last year’s flu season was “quiet.” “This year is going to be a little bit different,” she said. “Everybody is back to school. Most schools do not have kids wearing masks anymore. Most people are out and about. There are many other viruses circulating out there now and I do think we are going to have a robust flu season this year.” Scott said most pediatric offices are offering the COVID-19 vaccine, and if not, there are multiple ways in the county to get it. COVID vaccines are authorized for ages six month and older. “I highly recommend getting the COVID vaccine for your child,” she said. “The efficacy for preventing symptomatic infection, especially severe infection which may lead to hospitalization, decreases greatly once they complete the COVID vaccine series. By vaccinating against COVID, the other thing we started to learn, is your child has a much decreased risk for developing long COVID, which we are still learning a lot about, as well as the rare multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which does not happen often, but when it does the kids become very ill and usually have to be hospitalized in the ICU for a few days,” adding that the vaccines is effective and safe. Scott said some parents are still hesitant to give children COVID vaccine for a variety of reasons, but now there is data behind the safety, it is now probably one of the most studied vaccines in the history of vaccine technology, and the technology for the vaccine is over 30 years old. Another reason to check in with your pediatrician every year is for mental health. “Whether you have a 5-yearold who is having separation anxiety, or a 13-year-old dealing with adolescence, peer pressure, safe relationships, general safety, mental health, and puberty, those are all topics that your pediatrician will address with your child. We also have tools for you to navigate those issues. One thing I always tell my parents no matter their child’s age, try and spend at least 15 minutes, once a day, one-on-one with your kid having fun. Put the phones down. Do something that is special for you and your child to connect with them and check in with them.” Scott said with a new school year, new teachers, new friends, can cause anxiety, and making that one-on-one time can help identify and alleviate problems. After COVID, and much time spent home schooling, Scott said that going back to school in person can be stressful. “It can be a huge transition,” she said. “They might ask you every day not to take them to school, and there is stress on the parents in those situations. Reassuring them that all the other kids are in the same boat. They are all trying something new. They are going to come home by Friday completely exhausted. Trying to plan those early family dinners, getting to bed early, and into a healthy routine can really help.” Scott said if the anxiety is being in the school, new school, trying to make friends, signing them up for extracurricular activities, going to the local library with friends, set aside time for playdates, or time with their friends, they can be in a more focused environment and create relationships that then will be reinforced in school. She said this can be overwhelming, especially for children who are not sociable. Scott said a healthy routine for the family is important for all these issues. Getting up in time for breakfast, get ready, and not feel rushed. Picking them up from school and getting them daily exercise for at least 30 to 60 minutes. She said they probably get 20 to 30 minutes at school, so if they can get 30 more minutes of rigorous activity, they will sleep better. And it helps the parents sleep better. “Children ages 5 to 12 need at least nine to 12 hours of sleep for optimal health,” she said. “Every kid is a different type of sleeper. Some 5-year-olds still nap after school. Most kids need nine to 12, but some need even more than that. Adolescents, 13 and older, sleep times may be variable. Sometimes they stay up late doing homework, but they are the kids that are catching up on weekends. Ideally, I know their goal should be eight to 11 hours of sleep.” Scott said it is important for kids to wind down before going to bed and said there should be a “family media plan.” “That is screen time including computers, iPads, television, even your phones, really try to put them all away at least an hour before the ideal bedtime,” she said. “Because your brain is still stimulated by all those visual cues, so if you try to go to bed right after turning of the TV, it can take a while. I recommend brushing their teeth, reading a book, then heading to bed, including teens who are listening to music.” Scott said especially with little kids, they love the cuddle time with parents, reading stories One thing Scott said she talks to all her families about is eating healthy. “I tell my parents to try meal planning. At first it seems overwhelming, but once you get in the routine of meal planning it really helps the week. Increasing healthy eating options decreases anxiety in figuring out a meal last minute, or eating out, or eating fast food,” she said. “We want more fresh fruits and vegetables, greens, lean proteins, so your kiddos can grow well, develop normally, and sleep well at night.”


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