Back-to-School: Is Your Child Ready?

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The first day of the 2013-2014 school year is just round the corner and Kaiser Permanente Southern California wants to encourage parents to get the required back-to-school vaccinations for their children now and avoid any delays once the school-year rush begins.

“Vaccinating your children is the most important decision parents can make to ensure a child’s wellbeing and long-term health,” said Daisy Dodd, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist, Kaiser Permanente Anaheim Medical Center. “By ensuring that your child is up-to-date with vaccinations, you’re also protecting the health of others and doing your part to prevent outbreaks in the community,” she added.

Although rare, outbreaks still happen. For example in 2010, over 9,000 cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, were reported in the state of California. According to the California Department of Public Health, that was the most in over 60 years and it unfortunately resulted in 10 infant deaths. As of 2012, there is now a pertussis booster immunization requirement that applies to all students entering or advancing into the seventh grade.

Under the California School Immunization Law children are required to receive certain immunizations in order to attend public or private elementary and secondary schools, as well as child care or developmental centers. This also applies to students entering college.

Parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s pediatrician to find out what vaccines their children need and when the doses should be given. Vaccines are a covered benefit for all Kaiser Permanente members. Non-members who do not have medical insurance or need financial assistance can greatly benefit from the California Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program, a federally-funded and state-operated program that provides vaccines for eligible children at no cost.

What else can you do to help your child prepare for back-to-school? Dr. Dodd provides the following recommendations:

**About two weeks before school starts, help your child get back to his/her school sleep schedule. Every night, have them go to bed at an earlier time, and wake-up at an earlier time each morning.

**Help your child cope with back-to-school jitters by preparing them and supporting them emotionally. Focus on the importance of education; reuniting with friends and the possibility of making new ones; schedule a school visit to help your child get acquainted with a new school.

**When shopping for back-to-school supplies, pay special attention to your child’s backpack. Backpacks that are not fitted properly may cause back, shoulder or neck pain. Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.

**Reinforce back-to-school safety. If your child walks or rides his or her bike to school, remind them to look both ways before crossing; only cross in designated pedestrian crossings; and make sure they are wearing the necessary safety gear. Teach your child to never stop and talk to strangers, or get into a strangers car.

**Remember that a healthy, well-balanced diet provides the nutrients and vitamins a child needs to stay healthy, more alert and full of energy. By encouraging healthy eating habits from a young age, you can make a huge impact on your child’s lifelong health.

**Don’t forget about your child’s vision health. Children five years of age or older should be screened every one to two years. Good vision is essential for a student’s academic success.