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Back-to-school tips and tricks: A clean bill of health

OHSU Doernbecher pediatrician offers suggestions on how to help kick-off a healthy school year

With less than a month until the start of the school year, families will soon dust-off backpacks, roam store aisles for the appropriate supplies and select the perfect school wardrobe. While these tasks are important for a successful transition to the classroom, OHSU Doernbecher experts recommend adding physical and mental health checkups to your back-to-school list.

Carrie Phillipi, M.D., Ph.D.
Carrie Phillipi, M.D., Ph.D. (OHSU)

“It is really easy to overlook health care basics amid the excitement – and chaos – of preparing for a new school year,” said Carrie Phillipi, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, OHSU School of Medicine. “However, this is the perfect time to ensure children start off the year with a fresh outlook and a clean bill of health.

Phillipi recommends scheduling medical and dental check-ups, as well as hearing and vision screenings, prior to the first day of class.

“A simple trip to the doctor is the most effective way to confirm a child’s medical records and required vaccinations are up to date. And, for kids interested in athletics, a sports physical is a good way to ensure that it is safe for a child to participate in physical activity,” she said.

There are many other activities families can complete outside of the clinic to ensure kids remain healthy and safe at school:

  • Share the child’s health records – including information about asthma, allergies or prescription medication – as well emergency medical contact information, with the school, and develop a realistic action plan should any health issues arise.
  • To help limit illness, keep vaccinations up to date and remind children to wash their hands after using the restroom, or before a meal or snack.
  • Pack light and make sure the child’s backpack fits well using both shoulder straps.
  • If traveling by bike or by car, remember helmets and booster seat/safety belts. If the child takes the bus or walks to school, plan ahead to explore the route together.
  • Set clear and firm expectations for sleep, healthful eating, and limiting screen time.

Phillipi also notes that academic, athletic and social stress can lead to a variety of health issues ranging from insomnia to physical or mental disease.

“It’s normal for kids to be anxious about a new school year, therefore, it is imperative to help them manage this stress through open communication. While work and learning are important – it is equally important to ensure that all members of the family take time to relax, play and enjoy each other,” she said.


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