Back to School Health Guide

Help your kids start the new school year off on the right foot. From exercise and nutrition, to back packs and sports physcials, here's how you can help:

Sleep
A good night’s sleep can make all the difference. Children under 13 years old should get 10 - 12 hours of sleep every night, and those 13 or older should get somewhere in the range of 8 - 10 hours each night. Establish a ritual so they know what to expect – put electronic devices away an hour before bedtime and encourage your child to read a book, or read to them.

Nutrition
Studies show that kids who eat a nutritious breakfast perform better at school, so start their morning off with a meal that’s rich in protein, like scrambled eggs with a side of toast and fruit or a Greek yogurt fruit parfait topped with nuts. To promote focus, offer water instead of sugary drinks like sodas and fruit juices throughout the day. And make dinner plates colorful and brain-boosting by adding fruits and vegetables.

Exercise
Children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. After school, have them swap an hour of screen time for an hour outside playing with friends. You could also go for a bike ride or take a walk as a family.

Annual Check-up
From childhood through adolescence, your child will go through big changes in height, weight and appearance. The start of a new school year is a good reminder to get your child in for their annual visit to make sure their development is on the right track.

Immunizations
Make sure your child is up-to-date on required vaccinations. The Louisiana Department of Health’s immunization schedule is a good reminder of which vaccines they need when.

Vision
Performing well at school can be tough if you can’t read the board. Many schools offer vision screenings at the beginning of the school year, but if not, have your child screened every one or two years. Between screenings, make note of any signs of vision issues like squinting, sitting too close to the TV or headaches when reading.

Sports Physicals
Most school-aged children are required to have a sports physical to participate in a certain sport. A medical history and physical exam (height, weight, blood pressure, check of heart, lungs, etc.) will be done to evaluate your child’s general health and fitness level to help avoid injury.

Backpacks
It’s probably their most favorite back-to-school to-do: backpack shopping! Help them pick out something that suits their personality while also choosing one with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Also, when homework and books start coming home, the backpack should never weigh more than 10-20% of your child’s body weight.

Locally
A new Louisiana car seat safety law takes effect August 1, 2019 that will require all children to ride in the back seat until they are teenagers.

  • Under 2 years old: must ride in rear-facing car seats
  • 2 – 4 years old: must ride in forward-facing car seat with an internal seat belt
  • 4 – 9: must ride in a booster seat
  • 9 – 12: can ride without a booster in the back seat if they meet the proper height requirements
Child safety seat inspections and installations are offered throughout the state by the Louisiana State Police. Click here and select the troop area nearest you for days and times.

Jeremy Knott, MD
Baton Rouge General Family Medicine Residency Program

July 23, 2019