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Back-to-school: 5 survival tips

August 23, 2018 | Heather Shannon
boy waiting to board school bus with backpack

Summer is just about over and the school year is starting for kids across the country.

Our guide for parents will help anyone survive the onslaught of germs and the struggle to find healthy snacks their young ones will love.

Fend off back-to-school germs

 Homework and new friends aren’t the only things kids tend to bring home from school. The potential is high for them to bring home stomach viruses, colds and the flu, too.

The good news, says UCI Health family medicine physician Dr. Roxann Engle, is that you can prevent these illnesses and keep them from taking over the house by:

Learn more about steps you can take ›

Get those vaccinations to stay well

The start of the school year is a great time to get two crucial vaccines:

Starting in the fall, almost everyone needs a flu shot, including needle-shy kids. Those who get the vaccine are likely to have a milder illness, says UCI Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention.

“Every year, the flu circulates in the highest numbers among children,” says Gohil. “So when kids get their flu shots, not only are they protected, they also indirectly help protect others in the family and the community.”

For every child who doesn’t get the flu, there may be many older people who won’t catch it from them directly or indirectly. That’s a lot of cases of flu that won’t occur, and quite possibly, many lives saved.

If your child is 14 or under, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends two doses of the vaccine that protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is linked to several cancers, including throat and neck cancers, and cervical cancer. The vaccine has been shown to protect against these cancers, as well as genital warts.

Prepare some easy, healthy lunches and snacks

With a little preparation, it’s easy to keep lunch and snack boredom at bay while ensuring your kids are getting all of their vitamins and minerals.

Ensure safe participation in sports

If your child is planning to play in league or school sports this year, a sports physical is an excellent idea.

“The clearance physical is an opportunity for a physician to evaluate an athlete’s physical readiness to play and any risk factors or conditions that might need further evaluation,” says Dr. Christopher Kroner, a UCI Health family medicine physician who specializes in sports medicine.

Doctors routinely screen for things like:

“The important thing to remember is that doctors are not trying to find reasons to hold kids out of play,” Kroner says.

“In fact, they are looking for every way that the kids can play safely. If a doctor recommends some other test or consultation before clearance, there is a good reason and, though inconvenient, may end up saving the athlete’s life.”

Update the home first-aid kit

The start of the school year is a good time to review the contents of your home first-aid kit to make sure it’s fully stocked, up to date and ready in case of an emergency.

Even if you have to see a doctor, there are many situations where you need basic care right away, says UCI Health family medicine physician Dr. Samuel Lin.

And before any mishaps occur, it’s a good idea to review when to go to the emergency room and when to visit urgent care.

Examples of what should be in your kit include:

  • Assorted bandages
  • Gauze pads
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Blanket
  • Breathing barrier

Get the full list ›

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