My Child is Sick: New Book Tells Parents When to Call the Doctor

Have you ever debated about whether your child’s symptoms warranted a call to the doctor or not? Wondered if your kid was sick enough to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night or if it was okay to wait until the morning to go to the doctor’s office instead? Worried whether you were doing the right things to treat your child’s symptoms at home? Then a new book from Dr. Barton D. Schmitt may be just what the doctor ordered.

My Child is Sick!: Expert Advice for Managing Common Illnesses and Injuries is a new reference guide designed to help parents find answers fast to questions about treating the illnesses and injuries they are most likely to encounter while raising kids. This easy to use guide offers the same expert advice and guidance given by doctors and nurses in 10,000 practices and 400 nurse call centers in the United States and Canada and using the Pediatric Telephone Protocols which have been tested for 15 years on over 150 million phone calls. Now all of that advice is yours in one practical reference guide.

The author, Dr. Barton D. Schmitt is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine medical director of the After-Hours Call Center at The Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. Dr. Schmitt is also the author of Pediatric Telephone Protocols: Office-Hours version (12th edition, 2009), published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and Your Child’s Health (Bantam Books). Dr. Schmitt’s purpose in writing the book was to assist parents in determining when it is necessary to call a doctor about their child’s symptoms and how to treat the child at home if a doctor’s care is not required.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “inside this practical guide, parents will find:

  • Straightforward information on the most common illnesses and injuries of childhood
  • Decision charts to help care givers determine when to call the doctor and when it’s safe to treat symptoms at home, as well as descriptions of which symptoms are normal during the course of an illness or recovery from an injury and which are cause for concern.
  • Specific time-frame guidelines as to when to call the doctor or 911.
  • In-depth advice for treating symptoms at home, taking the guesswork out of how to make little ones feel better.
  • Drug dosage charts for the most commonly used non-prescription medicines.

With My Child is Sick at their fingertips, parents will never again have to worry about whether they’ve made the right decision about their child’s illness or injury.”

The 50 most common illnesses and injuries children are likely to face are outlined in order of areas of the body, and offer specific instructions on when to call the child’s doctor, when to call 911 or emergency services, and how to treat the illness or injury at home and offers information for children of all ages, from newborns to teenagers.

Parents may be tempted to think a book is unnecessary in this digital age where answers are abundant on the internet but if you’ve ever searched an illness or injury online before, you may already know that there is an overwhelming amount of information and advice to wade through and in some cases, not all of the information or advice is accurate or from an expert source. This book has accurate, expert guidance in a quick, easy to use format that can save parents time, money (if it saves you from making a trip to the doctor that wasn’t necessary), and a lot of worry.

After reviewing Part 1: Head or Brain Symptoms, which covers crying, head injuries, and headaches, I was glad to find that it is not written in “medical jargon” or “doctor speak” but easy to understand with clear instructions on what to do. I highly recommend parents have this book on hand in an handy location where it is easy to find in an emergency. It would even make a great baby shower gift for new parents. The book can be purchased online at the major online book retailer’s websites and may be available in your local bookstore.

Quality Afterschool Programs Benefit Children and Families

You can’t miss that it’s back to school season: school buses once again on the roads, displays of school supplies in all the stores, and a myriad of hints and tips on offer to help you have a great start to the school-year. Most focus is on the school day, but there’s another dimension to the season – especially for working parents: afterschool programs. And it can be an important element for a happy and successful school year. I know this from personal experience.

There are significant differences in the quality and organization of afterschool programs. At our son’s first school we really didn’t know what to expect from an afterschool program. We liked the leader, who had solid experience and was very good with the kids. And she organized great enrichment classes (though at significant additional expense!). Nevertheless, our son didn’t like the afterschool program and frequently asked to be picked up early – which just wasn’t possible with our work schedules.

When we moved to a new school….we discovered a whole new reality in after-care. Structured physical activity (okay, in the form of dodgeball – but our son really LIKED it!) and creative projects. A consistent daily schedule. A tangible reward program. And – most importantly for us – supervised homework time. When we got home in the evening our son ACTUALLY HAD ALL HIS HOMEWORK DONE! You just can’t imagine how significant an impact this made. At the previous school he NEVER had his homework done. We would get home about 6:30pm, have a quick dinner, and then struggle with our tired son for over an hour to get his homework completed before we had to deliver the bad news that it was already time for bed. Weekday evenings were a misery. But we were too naïve to realize that it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

These differences got me thinking. There’s lots of focus on the importance of a good school and related standards, requirements and assessments. But what about afterschool programs? How important are they really? And what does good look like?

What Should You Look For In an Afterschool Program?

The Afterschool Alliance, a non-profit organization advocating for more wide-spread access to afterschool programs, cites numerous studies showing that afterschool programs yield significant benefits for children and adolescents who participate regularly – both in improving academics and reducing the behavior issues and experimentation that characterize the 3pm-6pm time period. But it’s not enough to HAVE a program; you need to have a quality program that engages your children, especially since families are often restricted to whichever program is available in their school or community. So what does a good afterschool program look like?

It turns out that’s not such an easy question to answer. There is no fully-established and recognized accreditation for programs, (which are licensed in the US at state level as child care centers) and no universally-accepted and proven standards. Many programs follow the guidelines of the National Afterschool Association, a set of 144 standards which are offered for sale to practitioners. The Afterschool Alliance produced an issue brief this year on program quality (one of many good references/resources on their site) that identified eight broad characteristics of quality programs, including “intentional programming” and “promotion of varied youth engagement”. The Afterschool Corporation (TASC) in New York (which supports more than 250 programs and 40,000 children state-wide) highlights seven components of a quality program, including a diverse staff and low student-to-staff ratio.

Valeska Simmonds, a site coordinator within the Carmel Clay Extended School Enrichment program in Indiana, says that their program strives to help participants build a strong foundation in basic life skills. “We aim for each of our staff to be a role model for the children in our program. We also hold Awareness time each day – a group discussion on topics such as bullying, self-esteem, and nutrition that gives the kids a chance to share their knowledge and experiences with others.”

In reviewing these different sources, I identified the following key elements to look for:

  • Strong staff: Is there an effective, full-time coordinator for the site? Does the staff have varied and child-relevant backgrounds? Do they have applicable and on-going training? Is there a low student-to-staff ratio (most guidelines recommend ratios of 10:1 or 11:1 for elementary/middle school students)
  • Safe, welcoming and healthy environment: Are the facilities in good condition and big enough for the number of participants? Does the program have documented emergency procedures and behavior expectations? Are healthy snacks/meals provided as appropriate?
  • Access and availability: Does the program operate each school day – at least for 3 hours, but ideally before and after school? Is there an opportunity for families to apply for tuition aid? Does the program have a website and other channels of communication? (Carmel Clay has the daily schedule and profiles of each staff member on their site – and even has Twitter updates!)
  • Program mission and activities: Does the program have goals for participants beyond just safe childcare? Is there a variety of diverse and activities that are connected to, but go beyond, the school day? Do they have an established process for handling homework and does it work for you?
  • Student engagement: Does the program offer students a choice of activities and involve them in planning and organizing of the sessions? Do children get rewarded for involvement and good behavior? Does the schedule have time for kids to move and a variety of activities your child would enjoy?
  • Program assessment: Does the program seek out and, ideally, publish parent feedback? Is there a formal program assessment and improvement process? Carmel Clay follows the well-known Youth Program Quality Assessment, with all 11 sites reviewed in the fall of 2010.

What Can Parents Do?

According to Simmonds, parents looking at an afterschool program should have questions: “Are children in the program having fun?” “What types of activities are offered?” “Is the staff attentive to the needs of my child?” Simmonds recommends talking to the site coordinator for answers – and arranging a visit to observe the program. “Parents are a key part of the success of any after school program”, says Simmonds. “Ask staff how your child’s day went and attend any parent meetings you’re invited to. The more informed a parent is about the program, the better.”

What has your experience been with after-school programs? Do they work for your family?

Should You Let Your Teens Blog?

Millions of blogs already exist, and thousands more appear each day. So if your teens are interested in joining the blogosphere, don’t be surprised.

While you don’t want to stifle their creative freedom, it’s perfectly natural to be a bit concerned about what they’re going to be writing about — especially if they have a tendency to overshare. And having been in media for a long time, I can tell you there’s a fine line between recounting the innocent details of your day to posting the kind of information that can compromise their privacy — and yours.

If your teens decide they want to start a blog, here’s my advice:

1. Set up some ground rules. Do this before they write their first post. Start off by asking them what their theme is going to be. Do they love to cook and want to share recipes? Will it be more of a diary of random thoughts and feelings? Will they be blogging about trying to reach a specific goal?

2. Agree on what won’t be written about. Once you know what their angle is, you can help them decide which topics and details are off-limits.

3. Safeguard contact info. Also, be sure to caution them against giving away any personal biographical information, like their date of birth, address and phone number.

4. Find out how they’ll be publicizing the blog. Will they post it on Facebook? Email it to a handful of friends? With this information, you’ll be setting up ground rules with their audience in mind.

Once you have a better understanding of their intentions, you’ll feel better about their decision to become bloggers. And you might even become their biggest follower.

Bullying: 10 Things We Can Do to Keep Them Safer at School

We know our kids will have the new school supplies they need to start school, but have we given them the tools they need to deal with more than the reading, writing and arithmetic?

With the new school year quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to sit down with our children and talk about bullying.

Studies estimate that 1 out of 3 children are bullied, and over 150,000 children a day, skip school because they fear being bullied by another student.

As parents, there is much we can do to help our children avoid, prepare for, and deal with bullying. This will ease our children’s minds, and ours.

What do we do…

1. We realize, that no matter what we do, OUR KIDS WILL FACE CONFRONTATION in their lives. In school, in college, in the work place, in their neighborhoods, in marriage, as parents. Confrontation is part of life. We have to prepare them for it.

2. We need to help our children understand that it is never okay to fight. For the most part, nothing good comes of fighting. Fighting is not the answer. When our children are 40 and they have a disagreement with a coworker, they can’t use their fists to solve the problem then. Why would we teach them that that is how to deal with conflict now. It is not a skill that will serve them through their lives. That said, we need to teach our children to stand up for themselves in self-defense. They should know that if they need to defend themselves because they are being, or going to be physically attacked, then they defend themselves. And, that if they do have to fight in self-defense, that we will not be angry, but understand. They need to know that they always defend themselves if/when things turn physical.

Then, we need to…

3. Talk to our children when they are young. Waiting until our kids are bullied is not a good time to start addressing the issue. Use situations and find ways to bring up the subject and discuss it when they are young. Children who feel embarrassed or humiliated about being bullied are very unlikely to come home and share how they feel. Make it clear to your children that you are always there to listen, and that you can relate. If it is hard to talk to them, round up some children’s books on the subject, or ask your spouse to help. Don’t scare your children, but inform them.

4. Role-Play: Give your children different scenarios and teach them how to handle them. “What do you do if…?” (someone calls you a name, makes fun of you, someone takes your lunch, someone hits you). Go through each situation and teach them what to say and do. It will empower them, and when they are faced with the bully they wont be as intimidated because they will have had experience and practiced ways to handle the situation.

Role play simple words and actions…

  • Stand up straight and tall – Shoulders back
  • Don’t show emotion
  • Use a firm voice

5. Teach Conflict Resolution. We have to teach our children how to deal with conflict and confrontation. Teach them to manage their anger, communicate, and listen. Teach them how to compromise and be patient. This is done through everyday life situations and role-play. As conflict happens in your home, between siblings, use it to teach. We also must be good examples of conflict resolution in our own adult lives.

6. Let children work things out themselves. As parents we can be very quick to step in and stop the arguing and disagreements between our children. We decide who we think is the winner, and then go about our business. We feel good because the conflict and contention has stopped. We need to let our children work out their own disagreements. If we will sit back and watch, they will almost always be able to solve their own problems. Family situations are the perfect place for them to practice working through conflict when dealing with others. There is no better schoolroom than our home.

7. Keep our Ears Open. When our kids try and talk to us, we have to listen. They will drop little hints when there are bullying problems. It is easy to miss the cues when we are not really listening to what is being said. When our kids’ talk to us, we need to put everything else aside and really be in the moment to listen. Kids will tell us there is a problem long before bullying turns physical, listen to them.

8. Acknowledge Verbal Abuse. Just because it isn’t physical, doesn’t mean it is okay. Verbal bullying causes children to feel the same things as physical bullying: fear, loneliness, depression, anxiety, emotional distress, and lower self-esteem. Don’t blow off your child’s concerns.

9. Give them a hobby, interest, sport, talent, where they can excel. Build their self-confidence. We should involve our children in healthy activities where they find success. Something they like, that challenges them and where they can excel. Whether it is sports, a hobby or an interest. These activities will boost their self-confidence and belief in themselves, teach them how to deal with success and failure, solve problems, deal with others and speak their minds. A strong self-esteem is our child’s best defense against bullying.

10. Model/Teach Empathy As parents, we need to model kind, gentle behavior for our children. They learn by watching us. Be sure that the other adults and kids that are around our children demonstrate empathy as well. We need to teach our kids to try to understand other’s points of view and to feel compassion towards others. If we are always raising our voices, showing impatience, and arguing, they will do the same. Empathetic children are also less likely to become bullies themselves.

As parents, we can do a lot to help our children deal with bullying. Send your children to school with more than just new pencils. Send them with confidence and strength to deal with conflict and stand up for themselves.


“Best of” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2011: Part II

If you are someone who takes care of kids in any way, shape or form (which I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this) one phrase has probably dominated your world for the past couple of weeks: “back-to-school”. It is likely that you have not spent a day, opened a newspaper or a journal or gone to the sites you typically visit online without seeing these words staring back at you in an article offering you advice on: “How can you best prepare your kids”, “The 101 things you should know about your child’s health and/or safety before you send them back to school…” etc.

Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing… With so many articles and so much information it can be a bit overwhelming at times. With that in mind, I’ve done a little searching and pulled together a “best of” health and safety tips across all the expert information I’ve found. While last week’s back-to-school health and safety tips focused on everything to consider before they head off to school, today’s tips focus on what you need to know to send them off and make sure they return safely. Hopefully it will save everyone a little time that they could be otherwise be using to get 5 more minutes (or 1 extra hug) with their kids. (*Please note: as with my last post, I am sourcing other author’s tips and will cite all references below – all copyrights, credit and thanks belong to them)

Heading to School:

Getting on the Bus Safely:

  • When the bus arrives, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb.
  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road until you are five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus. Then you can cross the street.
  • Be sure the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver.
  • Never walk behind the bus.
  • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up first because the driver may not be able to see you.

While on the bus:

  • When on the bus, find a seat and sit down. Loud talking or other noise can distract the bus driver.
  • Never put head, arms or hands out of the window.
  • Keep aisles clear—books or bags are tripping hazards and can block the way in an emergency.
  • At your stop, wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat, then walk to the front door and exit, using the handrail.

Getting off the Bus:

  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least ten feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road until you can turn around and see the driver. Make sure the driver can see you.
  • Wait for a signal from the driver that it’s safe before beginning to cross…then, walk across the road keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
  • Stay away from the wheels of the bus at all times.

Walking to school:

  • Walk to school with a group of kids and always have a responsible adult with you.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing the traffic.
  • The safest place to cross is at a street corner or intersection.
  • If you are 10-years-old or younger, you need to cross the street with an adult. Before you step off the curb, stop and look all ways to see if cars are coming. When no cars are coming, it is safe for you to cross, but look left-right-left as you do and hold the adult’s hand.
  • Walk, don’t run. This gives time for drivers to see you before you enter the roadway.
  • Don’t dart out in front of a parked car. The driver of the car coming down the street will not be able to see you.
  • In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider starting a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.

Riding a bike to school:

  • Always wear your helmet and make sure it fits correctly. The helmet should fit low on your forehead so that two fingers fit between it and your eyebrows.
  • To ride safely, you need to know the “rules of the road”. Ride on the right side of the road in a single file line in the same direction as other vehicles and come to a complete stop before crossing streets. Wait for a driver’s signal before crossing the street.
  • Wear bright colors during the day and right before the sun rises or sets.
  • Riding at night can be dangerous. You should have a white light on the front of your bicycle and a red reflector on the back. You also can get lights and reflective materials to put on your shoes, helmet and clothing.

By the Way – Here’s a great brochure by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that uses graphics and humor to teach little kids how to be safe on their way to school.

Teen Driving:

  • Graduated Driver Licensing allows teens to practice driving skills in low risk situations, moving through driver license stages with gradually increasing responsibility. GDL reduces teen driver crashes and deaths by up to 40%. You can implement life-saving GDL practices in your home by following these tips:
    • Extend the learner’s permit period until at least 6 months of practice has passed.
    • Set a nighttime driving restriction – no unsupervised driving after 10pm.
    • Set a passenger restriction – no one younger than 18 allowed during a teen’s first 12 months of driving.
    • Ban cell phone use and make safety belts mandatory while driving. Prohibit alcohol – zero tolerance for underage drivers.

During the School Day:

Eating during the day:

  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home. With advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice in the vending machines.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Restrict your child’s soft drink consumption.


  • “Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, or over the Internet”. The American Academy of Pediatrics has detailed guidelines on managing bullying from the perspective of the child being bullied, the child who is the bully and the bystander. Across all 3 categories, what is consistent is involving a parent or another adult to develop a proactive solution. Rather than try and abbreviate this section, if this is an issue for your child, well documented and excellent guidelines can be sourced here.

School Sports

  • Acclimate children to hot weather workouts by gradually increasing time outdoors about ten days to two weeks before official practice begins to help prevent heat injuries.
  • Make sure children drinking plenty of fluids and take frequent breaks: every 10-15 minutes while playing outdoor sports. Also make sure they wear light clothing and limit their exposure to the sun in the hottest part of the day. Apply towels soaked in ice cubes and water to the head and neck to stay cool.
  • When heat illness is suspected, move the athlete into the shade or coolest area nearby. Try to cool them as quickly as possible by exposing the skin to ice/cold water and cool circulating air.
  • Young athletes with asthma should use preventative inhalers 20-30 minutes before exercise, do a gradual warm-up and should have a rescue inhaler available to them during practices and during competition.
  • Make sure children wear a well-fitted helmet if they play football, softball or baseball to prevent severe injuries such as concussions.
  • Remind children to immediately tell the coach or trainer if they feel dizzy or have a lapse in memory after taking a blow to the head. They should not return to the same practice, game or contest and should be evaluated by a physician prior to return to play.

Keeping them safe at school:

  • Ask your child about safety in his or her school. Where do they feel most safe? Least safe? Why?
  • Identify comfort levels and methods for reporting safety concerns. Do students have at least one adult and/or method through which they would feel comfortable reporting safety concerns at school?
  • Examine access to your school. Are there a reduced number of doors that can be accessed from the outside (while still allowing children to exit from the inside in an emergency)? Does faculty know who is in their school?
  • 5 excellent questions that your school’s crisis management team should know the answer to – if not, get involved:
    • How do you dial 9-1-1 from the school phones? Do you need to get an outside line first?
    • What is the actual street address of the school if asked by a 9-1-1 dispatcher?
    • If your school’s nearby walking evacuation site is a community church, does someone have the keys to get in if no one from the church is there when you arrive?
    • How long does it really take to mobilize your school bus drivers in the middle of the day if you need to evacuate multiple buildings?
    • Have you ever trained students NOT to open doors to people on the outside trying to get into the school?

After School:

Getting home from school safely and staying that way:

  • Make sure your child walks home with a group of friends or a responsible adult.
  • Make sure to have an adult at the bus stop after school to ensure the kids get home safely.
  • Make a code word that will be used when someone else they do not know will pick them up. Every time you have someone pick your child up from school they have to know your secret code word or your child will not get in the vehicle.
  • Let them know that if an adult makes them feel uncomfortable or is following them they should call 911 and find a safe place – go back to school, to the police, or to a friend’s home as quick as possible.
  • Along those lines – teach your children “No, Go, Yell, Tell”: Say No! loudly if they feel they’re in danger; Go! run fast and far to the nearest safe place; Yell! as loudly as they can while they run; Tell! a trusted adult exactly what happened as soon as they reach safety.
  • If they are going to be alone in the afternoons, teach them to go straight home, lock the door and only open it for people with permission to enter the house. Never open the door to delivery people.
  • They should never tell someone on the telephone or on the internet that they are home alone. If asked about mom/dad say something like “He or she is busy right now. Can I take a message?”

So folks, I know it was a long list, but I hope it’s one you’ll find useful. Until next time, keep them healthy and keep them safe…


As we did with “Best of” Back to School Health and Safety Tips 2011: Part I, we’d like to send out our thanks and recognition to some very smart folks for some really terrific advice:

  1. Waiting for the Bus, While on the bus, Getting off the Bus, Walking to school and Riding a bike to school: (Traveling to School: Safety tips to share with your children: National Safety Council)
  2. Teen Driving: (Teen Driving Safety: Graduated Driver Licensing saves lives: National Safety Council)
  3. Eating during the day and Bullying: (Back to School Tips: American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
    *(Note: our thanks to Kelly from Educator Labs and her student Robbie for finding us an updated link for this)
  4. School Sports (Children Should Rely on Safety Equipment to Prevent School Sports Injuries: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center)
  5. Keeping them safe at school: (Parents & School Safety – Can you Prevent Another Tragedy? How Safe is Your Child’s School: Ken Trump, president of National School Safety & Security Services)
  6. Getting home safe and staying that way bullets #1,2,3,4: (Children’s safety tips to remember for back to school: Melina Ann Collison, St Louis Crime Examiner, July 27, 2009)
  7. Getting home safe and staying that way bullets #5: (Living Safe – Teach your children “No, Go, Yell, Tell”: Katherine Cabaniss Crime Stoppers)
  8. Getting home safe and staying that way bullets #6,7: (After-school safety tips from the American Red Cross)

“Best of” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2011: Part I

It’s that time of year again… back to school. A time filled with carpools, backpacks and homework…and on many parent’s minds, a question… How can I keep my kids healthy and safe without following them around 24/7? We know they need to experience independence, learn how to develop friendships and how to make good decisions, yet we’re torn with a desire to protect them in every way possible. 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 do and don’t lists. In fact there is a wealth of knowledge on the web on how to best prepare your child and send them off to school. Hello information overload! So, in an effort to save you a little time – which at this time of the year we all know is in incredibly precious – I’d like to share with you our compiled list of the best back-to-school tips we’ve been able to find. In “Back-To-School” Part I, we’ll cover everything you need before they head out the door. Part II will keep them safe until they come home. (*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 back-to-school physicals:

  • Bring five questions with you to be discussed during the visit. This helps parents to start thinking about their child’s health concerns earlier which may prevent parents from forgetting topics they want to discuss.
  • Be sure to know the name and dosage of all medications your child is on.
  • Bring shot records with you – especially if you’re changing pediatricians as vaccine schedule recommendations can change.
  • Bring sports physical forms. Pediatricians can fill these out and conduct the sports physical exam in tandem with the yearly checkup.
  • Bring report cards and conduct grades. If your child has special needs or classes, bring that information in as well. This information can help pediatricians look into, and potentially address, any underlying medical reason behind low marks.

Review your back-to-school health check list:

  • Immunization: Ensure your child’s preschool immunization is completed prior to entering Kindergarten to protect her against vaccine-preventable diseases. Check here for the CDC 2011 Child & Adolescent Immunization Schedules.
  • Vision screening: Have your child’s vision tested before he starts Kindergarten (ideally by age three) and annually until age 18. As much as 80% of learning is visual, so ensuring children can see properly will help them reach their full potential in the classroom.
  • Hearing/speech screening: If you suspect your child may have a hearing or speech problem, check with your doctor for a referral to an audiologist and/or speech specialist. An undetected problem could interfere with your child’s learning.
  • Dental checkup: Regular dental checkups should begin by age three. If your child hasn’t had her teeth examined prior to starting school, now is a good time for it. Regular checkups and cleanings help detect and prevent dental problems early.
  • Mental Health Check: Pediatricians are now requesting that patients and their parents fill out questioners to monitor behavior and psychological healthiness. For children ages 18 months to two years this can help doctors rule out pervasive developmental disorders such as autism. For teens and pre-teens this can help doctors determine whether the child should be treated for depression.
  • Emergency contacts: Make sure the school has up-to-date emergency numbers, including contact information for parents, physicians, etc.
  • Health conditions: Ensure the school has up-to-date information about any physical impairments or medical conditions your child may have, including allergies. Also inform the school about any medications your child takes. Check here for more detailed information on preparing children with asthma to return to school
  • Nutrition plan: Ensure your child has a healthy breakfast before heading to school in the mornings, and help her pack a nutritious lunch. Planning meals ahead of time and involving children in planning and preparation can make this task more manageable and fun.

Conduct a Back-to-school backpack check:

  • A child’s backpack should weigh no more than about 15% of his or her body weight. This means a student weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a loaded school backpack heavier than about 15 pounds.
  • Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline.
  • Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
  • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back (the back of the pack). Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.
  • Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.
  • If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, your child can hand carry a book or other item outside the pack. If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.

Deciding when they’re too sick for school:

  • Fever: Fever is a common symptom of viral infections, like influenza. If your child’s temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher, keep your kid at home. While at home, encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids. If you have concerns about your child’s health, get in touch with her pediatrician. A child should be fever-free for 24 hours (without medicine) before returning to school.
  • Mild Cough/Runny Nose: If there’s no fever and the child feels fairly good, school is fine.
  • Bad Cough/Cold Symptoms: Children with bad coughs need to stay home and possibly see a doctor. It could be a severe cold or possibly bronchitis, flu, or pneumonia. But when the cough improves and the child is feeling better, then it’s back to school. Don’t wait for the cough to disappear entirely — that could take a week or longer!
  • Diarrhea or Vomiting: Keep your child home until the illness is over, and for 24 hours after the last episode (without medicine).
  • Sore Throat: A minor sore throat is usually not a problem, but a severe sore throat could be strep throat even if there is no fever. Other symptoms of strep throat in children are headache and stomach upset. Keep your child home from school and contact a doctor. Your child needs a special test to determine if it is strep throat. He or she can return to school 24 hours after antibiotic treatment begins.
  • Earache: The child typically needs to see a doctor.
  • Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): Keep the child home until a doctor has given the OK to return to school. Pink eye is highly contagious and most cases are caused by a virus, which will not respond to an antibiotic. Bacterial conjunctivitis will require an antibiotic; your doctor will be able to determine if this is the case.
  • Rash: Children with a skin rash should see a doctor, as this could be one of several infectious diseases. One possibility is impetigo, a bacterial skin infection that is very contagious and requires antibiotic treatment.

Check back again soon for Part II where we’ll pick up our “Best” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2011 with suggestions for what to do once they head out the door. Until next time keep them healthy…keep them safe…


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

  1. Prep for back-to-school physicals: (Texas Children’s Pediatric Associates prepare patients to go back to school by Texas Children’s Hospital, Aug 2, 2011)
  2. Review your back-to-school health check list: (Back to school health checklist by Alberta Health Services)
  3. Conduct a back-to-school backpack check: (Backpack strategies for parents and students by the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.)
  4. Deciding when they’re too sick for school: (Your Child: Too Sick for School? by Jeanie Lerche Davis for WebMD September 2010)