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UofL experts offer back-to-school advice

by UofL Today last modified Jul 18, 2014 02:12 PM

As parents complete their back-to-school lists, they need to remember health checks for their children. Southern Indiana students will be back in the classroom as early as July 30, and Jefferson County Public School students will return Aug. 13.

UofL experts offer back-to-school advice

Hector Martinez, DDS, UofL School of Dentistry Director of the Pediatric Dental Program

These exams are required for new and returning students.

  • Dental exams: Kentucky law requires all children entering kindergarten receive a dental screening. The UofL School of Dentistry is offering free screenings to these new students. Parents can call (502) 852-5312 to make an appointment.
  • Physicals: Children must get physicals for kindergarten and sixth grade.
  • Eye exams: Kindergarteners require an exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
  • Sports physicals: Athletes are often required to receive comprehensive physical exams to ensure they are ready to participate in organized sports.
  • Other: Your child’s doctor may do other exams, based on the requirements of your child’s school and the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Parents also need to begin adjusting their children’s sleep schedule and scaling back their evening screen time so they’ll be ready for the first day of school, according Dr. Erica Labar, medical director, UofL Pediatrics – Kosair Charities.

“Changing bedtime should not occur in one night or even over a weekend. Parents should ease children into an earlier bedtime, working in 15-30 minute increments,” she explained, adding that lack of sleep can affect academic achievement, sports performance, behavior and even weight management.

UofL experts are available to discuss a number of other back-to-school topics.

Vaccines—When children head off to school, they’re likely to bring home any number of bugs. What should parents do to protect their own health and the health of the younger children they spend time with? Vaccines can make a difference.

Dental Care—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics indicate tooth decay affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Dental pain or disease can lead to difficulty in eating, speaking, playing and learning, as well as missed school. Regular dental examinations are important to diagnose and treat or prevent dental problems.

Mouth guards for athletes—The American Dental Association estimates that mouth guards prevent approximately 200,000 injuries each year in high school and college football. Dental injuries are also prevalent in non-contact activities and exercises such as gymnastics and skating. Properly fitted mouth guards are the best available protective device for reducing the incidence and severity of sports-related dental injuries.

Food allergies—Keeping up with a child’s food allergies in school can be a daily challenge. Food allergies, which can be life threatening and cause social issues in the classroom, are estimated to affect 3 million children. What can parents do to protect their allergic children from both health risks and bullying?

Balanced diet—Students need to feed their brains as well as their bodies. Experts say that eating breakfast improves cognitive function related to memory, test grades and school attendance. Parents should also remember to make sure their children eat healthy lunches. Numerous studies indicate that a balanced diet is crucial in maintaining physical health and promoting emotional well-being and psychosocial functioning.

Back-to-school phobias—These are fairly common and can occur at various times during a child’s school career. Fear of returning to school can be caused by difficulty separating from parents, concerns about academic and social performance, previous experiences of being bullied and even bullying related to food allergies.

Letting go—Separation anxiety can work both ways. Some parents have trouble coping with sending their children off to school for the first time. Others are unsure when it’s wise to keep their children home from school. There are rules of thumb to help decide when a child is mature enough to go to school, when the child is too sick for school and what parents can do to ease their own separation anxiety.

Backpacks—More than 79 million students in the United States carry school backpacks and in one study, 64 percent of students reported back pain related to heavy backpacks. There are precautions students can take to avoid pain and injury.

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The UofL Department of Pediatrics is a network of approximately 180 pediatricians and pediatric specialists. Our specialists provide the vast majority of subspecialty medical care at Kosair Children’s Hospital. We care for newborns at nine other Kentucky and Indiana hospitals. We also see patients at five general pediatric practices across the city of Louisville.

 

The UofL School of Dentistry offers comprehensive dental care for children. A pediatric dentist can discuss topics related to the oral health care of children. Parents can schedule a free dental screening for their child entering kindergarten at 502-852-5642.
  

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