Though August is just heating up, back-to-school season is right around the corner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants parents to be aware of nine ways they can kick the school year off on a healthy, safe foot.
“As a parent and a grandparent, I know that back-to-school time is a busy time,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Yet, I encourage parents to be mindful of some health essentials to add to your to-do lists.”
Staying healthy this school year
The CDC’s tips cover a wide variety of topics. The full list, as well as even more resources, are available here.
Adopting healthy habits
One way to stay healthy this school year is for kids to remain physically active and follow healthy diets.
While school nutrition programs were found to be effective ways for children to learn about healthy eating habits, these resources aren’t available in every school. Because parents, particularly mothers’, eating habits play a large role in children’s own eating habits, it’s important that parents take the time to pack their children healthy lunches that will keep them full and energized throughout the school day. The CDC offers insights on how parents and schools can work together to emphasize healthy diets.
With many children not meeting recommended physical activity goals, the CDC also encourages parents to walk their children home from school if possible, and swap time in front of screens for time playing outside reports Consumer Affairs.
Stay up-to-date on vaccines
With this year’s measles outbreak, health experts are pushing for more extensive vaccine coverage, and the CDC recommends the same for the start of the school year.
The agency has resources for parents to read up on regarding scheduling and staying up to date on vaccines. Doing so can not only ensure that children perform their best at school, but also protect them against potentially dangerous and contagious infections and diseases.
Keep your hands clean
Germs spread the fastest through the things we touch with our hands, so it’s imperative that parents emphasize the importance of hand-washing.
The CDC has tips on when and how everyone should be washing their hands, including after using the bathroom and after coughing or sneezing. Simply using soap and water can go a long way in preventing the spread of germs.
Beat the heat
Parents, teachers, and coaches should take necessary precautions to protect kids from the heat, especially in the earlier school months when the weather is still warm.
The CDC offers a full list of ways to prevent heat-related illnesses, which emphasize taking simple steps like wearing light-weight clothing while outdoors, drinking plenty of water, and reapplying sunscreen throughout the day.
Have meaningful conversations at home and at school
The CDC encourages parents to talk with their kids about serious topics, such as mental health, prescription drug use, and physical violence.
Connecting with adolescents on these topics is critical for their development and well-being, and the agency offers various options for parents to broach delicate topics with their kids.
“Youth who feel engaged and supported at school and at home are less likely to experience negative health outcomes later in life-related to mental health, violence, sexual risk, and substance use,” the agency writes.
With several cities across the country implementing taxes on sugary drinks with kids in mind, both lawmakers and health experts at the CDC are recommending that parents limit children’s intake of drinks loaded with sugar in preference of water.
Be mindful of injuries
It’s not uncommon for children to experience injuries when playing outside or participating in sports. The CDC wants parents to be mindful of such injuries, particularly concussions, so they can react accordingly by making sure children wear helmets and other protective equipment.
Concussion symptoms can last longer in children than in adults, and recent studies have found that nearly 20 percent of kids aren’t wearing helmets while riding bikes or scooters.
Though once touted as being the healthier alternative to cigarettes, recent studies have shown how harmful e-cigarettes can be. There are several negative health effects that come from smoking electronic cigarettes.
Though government agencies are working to make it harder for kids to gain access to e-cigarettes, the devices are incredibly popular among young people. The CDC advises parents to talk with their children about the risks associated with the devices.
Be prepared for emergencies
Before the craziness of the school year is underway, the CDC recommends that parents talk with their children about an emergency care plan.
In having open and honest conversations about what the family would do in case of an emergency, children can feel more prepared and less worried should an emergency situation present itself.