“Best of” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2009: Part I

It’s that time of year again…back to school. Some of our kids have already left, some are just heading out…and although we can send them off with a hug, typically there’s a little more we want to do to protect them and make backtoschool-3sure there are little to no “ouches” to care for when they arrive home. And our job isn’t easy, because unfortunately the hazards they face – bullying, gangs, drug sales, reckless drivers and predators, just to name a few – can happen before, during or after school. The best we can hope for is to make sure they are healthy before they walk out the door, ensure their trip to and from school is “uneventful”, and equip them with the tools, knowledge and resources to help them keep themselves safe and healthy until they are once again in our care.

To assist our efforts, experts provide us with articles and blog posts of “back to school” health guidelines and safety tips and do’s and don’ts lists, addressing all of these issues in many different forms. In fact there is a wealth of knowledge on the web on how to best prepare your child and send them off to school. Having sourced and searched, and read and compiled, what I would like to do here is save you a little time – which at this time of the year we all know is in incredibly precious – and share with you the best of what I found. (*Please note – I am sourcing other author’s tips and will cite all references below – all copyrights, credit and thanks belong to them)

Before School Begins:

Prep for pre-school physicals: backtoschool-health check2

  • Bring your child’s immunization records. If you can’t locate those records, contact your school’s nurse for the most recent copy on file.
  • Make a list of any questions you may have regarding your child’s physical, emotional or mental development.
  • Encourage your child to be open and forthright with the doctor about any health-related issues
  • Don’t wait until the last minute.
  • Don’t confuse pre-participation sports physical exams with school physicals. Sports physicals are required in advance of every school year or sports season.

Consider a back-to-school health check list:

  • Have your child’s hearing checked.
  • Have their vision screened. Young children often don’t know they can’t see well enough for schoolwork
  • Be sure immunizations are up to date.
  • Investigate possible learning disabilities. If you suspect your child may not be processing information correctly, speak to a teacher or contact a learning center for advice.
  • Inventory your child’s mental health. What’s your child’s behavior like? If your child seems anxious or unsteady, talk to your pediatrician or a counselor to help identify the source and a solution
  • Plan ahead on prescriptions – especially if medications will need to be given at school
  • Scan the scalp.
  • Equip the athlete. If your child will participate in sports, be sure that he or she has all the protective equipment needed for the sport.
  • Schedule a trip to the dentist. Address any sleep issues.

Conduct a backpack check:

  • When fully loaded, your child’s backpack should weigh less than 15 percent of his body weight. To help yourbacktoschool-5 child know what this weight feels like, use your bathroom scale to measure the right backpack load.
  • Buy a backpack with two wide, padded straps that go over the shoulders — and make sure your child uses both straps at all times.
  • Your child’s backpack should not be wider than his body.
  • Choose a backpack with a padded waist or chest belt. This distributes weight more evenly across the body. Multiple compartments also help distribute the weight.
  • Consider a backpack with a metal frame (like hikers use) or on wheels (like a flight attendant’s bag). Check with your child’s school first to see if these types of bags are allowed.
  • Make sure your child isn’t carrying unnecessary items. Laptops, CD players and video games can add a lot of pounds to a backpack.
  • Heavier items should be placed closer to the back of the backpack, next to the body.
  • Finally teach them to pick up their backpack like any heavy object – bend at the knees to lift.

Deciding when they’re too sick for school:

  • As a rule of thumb, a child should stay home if he has a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit OR
  • Vomited more than once
  • Diarrhea
  • A very frequent cough
  • Persistent pain (ear, stomach, etc.)
  • A widespread rash

For those with “big kids” going off to school, make sure their health is covered:

  • Know the plans benefits. Make sure you have read and, in fact, understand the entire contents of the plan brochure.
  • What doctors are covered? Can students use their own doctors when at home?
  • Does the plan have any authorization or referral requirements?
  • How much does it cost? Prices and payment options vary greatly from plan to plan.
  • What are the plan exclusions? Often student health plans are considered “accident and sickness plans” meaning they exclude or provide very limited routine and preventative care
  • Are there any pre-existing condition limitations? Will your child’s ongoing condition be covered?
  • What are the plan maximums? Some student plans are extremely basic and therefore the aggregate benefit maximum may be very low.
  • If your child is no longer a student is there an option to extend coverage (i.e. after graduation?)
  • What are the deadlines?
  • Who is the health insurance carrier?

Check back again soon for Part II where we’ll pick up our “Best of” Back to School – Health and Safety Tips 2009 with suggestions for what to do once they head out the door. Until next time keep them healthy, keep them safe…and remember we’ll keep doing our best to help you do both, because one ouch is definitely too many


Sending out thanks and recognition to some very smart folks for some really great advice:

  1. Prep for pre-school physicals: (School-age physicals: What to know before you go by Drs. Michelle Meeks and Tonja Austin, Aug 4, 2009)
  2. Conduct a backpack check: (Backpack Safety Tips – Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta by Dr David Marshall Aug 5, 2009)
  3. Deciding when they’re too sick for school: (Is Your Child Too Sick for School by Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta Aug 5, 2009)

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!