Back to school health

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After a long, relaxing holiday, parents and children often find it hard to settle back into the school routine. Dr Jurgita gives advice to help you to prepare for common health issues associated with school life.

Germs

Teach young children about germs to help prevent the spread of illnesses. Frequently washing hands, especially before eating, can stop infections spreading. Hand sanitiser can be used as an alternative, but isn’t as effective as hand washing. Make sure your child has a tissue or a handkerchief at school to cough and sneeze into and teach them not to share things like cups and cutlery.

Head lice

Head lice can often be spread at school and are most common in children between the ages of 4 and 11, although anyone can catch them. They are spread by head to head contact. Head lice can be treated using a special fine tooth comb or medicated lotion or spray. Ask your pharmacist for recommendations.

Healthy eating

Give your children the fuel they need for the day by making sure they have eaten breakfast before leaving the house. It will also help concentration throughout the day. If you give your child a packed lunch, try to include a couple of their five-a-day with fruit, carrot sticks or fruit juice. If your children eat school meals, encourage them to make healthy choices.

Health and safety

Walking to and from school is a great way for older children to become more independent but first make sure that they are aware of road safety issues. Teach them how to cross the road safely and make sure that they know to always use a safe crossing.

When travelling between home and school, children often carry very heavy school bags which can be damaging for their backs. Get your child a rucksack with two adjustable shoulder straps and try to limit the amount of weight they are carrying.

Stress

Stress can be an issue for school children of all ages, but particularly for young people studying for SAT and GCSE exams. Encourage them to study by giving them a quiet, comfortable area to work in at home. Help your child keep things in perspective and explain that feeling nervous before exams is natural. Beat stress by ensuring your child eats well and avoids sugary and caffeine-filled food and drinks as they will disrupt sleep patterns. Exercise can also relieve stress and help children sleep. Don’t forget to reward your child after the exams have finished with a special treat and celebrate all the hard work they have done!

Vaccinations

Routine vaccinations which are offered to children are:

• MMR - which protects against measles, mumps and rubella

• ‘Pre-school’ booster jabs are given to children aged 3 years and 4 months and above

• ‘Teenage booster’ jab between the ages of 13 and 18

• HPV vaccination - offered to all 12 to 13 year old girls to protect them from cervical cancer in later life

If you are unsure of which vaccines your child has received, phone your GP surgery and they will be able to check your child’s medical records.

Following the above advice should help to make sure the return to school is as stress free as possible.

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