VACAVILLE — A local doctor offered four tips this week to help parents as the school year begins Thursday in Vacaville.
Dr. Jeff Gaborko, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in Vacaville, recommends:
“One of the best ways to ensure a successful start to the school year is making sure your child is healthy,” Gaborko said in a prepared release. “Children who miss school because of illness often fall behind and have a hard time catching up to the rest of the class. Making sure your child has the proper immunizations can protect him or her from common childhood diseases and other contagious illnesses throughout the school year.”
Most school-age children receive several required vaccinations at ages 4 or 5, just before entering kindergarten. Students entering seventh grade also must have the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster shot before entering school. A Tdap vaccination protects against whooping cough, a highly contagious bacterial disease that can cause children to make a whooping sound as they gasp for breath.
Other immunizations can protect against chicken pox, Hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, rubella – also called German measles – and even Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. A flu vaccine can also prevent a child from catching the flu, which is highly contagious, and can help ward off outbreaks at school sites.
Get your child back on a regular bedtime schedule as quickly as possible, Gaborko said.
“Children need at least eight to 10 hours a sleep a night,” he said. “Encourage children to set an alarm so they are waking up at the same time every day. Having a restful night’s sleep will lead to a more focused student.”
A healthy diet, one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, will help children stay fit and keep them energized.
“Starting the day with a healthy breakfast can reduce the urge to snack later on less-nutritious items such as chips and cookies,” Gaborko said in the release. “Children also need a healthy lunch to sustain them throughout the school day.
“One of the most important things parents need to watch for when packing a school lunch is avoiding foods that are high in sugar,” he said. “Pack a bottle of water rather than juice or soda. Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads. Opt for low-fat or nonfat dairy products.”
Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into lunches doesn’t have to be difficult, he said. He suggests adding some banana slices to a peanut-butter sandwich, cutting up vegetables with a side of low-fat dressing for dipping, or making homemade trail mix using peanuts, raisins, dried cranberries, almonds and coconut.
“A healthy lunch doesn’t necessarily need to come from home,” he said. “Many school cafeterias are now offering healthier options such as salad bars, fresh fruit and foods lower in sodium or fat.”
For some children, the school year may bring on stress as they deal with new teachers, classmates and, in some cases, a new school.
Stress can be normal, but if it happens too often or lasts too long, it can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, back pain and trouble sleeping, Gaborko said in the release. It can also make children moody, depressed or tense.
“Talk to your children about how they are feeling,” he said. “Make sure they know that there are ways to deal with their stress. Teach them time management techniques. Help them to unwind with a hobby or a good book. Offer to work through problems together.
“If they are unwilling or uncomfortable speaking with you, suggest they talk to a school counselor or find a professional mental-health specialist for them to see,” he said.
For more information on how to keep your child healthy and active, visit www.kp.org.
Reach Glen Faison at 427-6925 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.