3 Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips

AUGUST 13, 2017
The start of the school year can be an exciting and stressful time for families.  Pharmacists can be a great resource for families to ensure that they are educated regarding various health and safety issues.  Check out these 3 back-to-school health and safety tips.
  1. Children and teens should be up-to-date on vaccines.
It is important to educate parents that vaccines are the best way to protect children and teens from 16 harmful diseases.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children and teens receive the following vaccines:1

           4-6 years of age:
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP)
  • Polio (IPV)
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Annual influenza vaccine
            7-10 years of age:
  • Annual influenza vaccine
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can be given as early as 9 years but is generally recommended for children 11-12 years of age
            11-12 years of age:
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine
  • HPV vaccine
  • Tdap vaccine
  • Annual influenza vaccine
           13-18 years of age:
  • Annual influenza vaccine
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine
  • Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine
  1. Develop a good sleep schedule.
It is important to educate parents on the health benefits of adequate sleep for their children. Inadequate sleep is common among high school students and is associated with various adverse health risks including obesity, smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, and poor academic performance. Studies have also demonstrated that early school start times contribute to inadequate sleep among middle and high school students.2-4  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that schools should have start times after 8:30 am to allow students the opportunity to sleep 8.5-9.5 hours each night.4 Educate parents to set a consistent bedtime for their children.  Also, parents should encourage children to turn off all electronic devices prior to bedtime.
  1. Prevent edible marijuana poisoning among children.
Since marijuana is now legal for medical or recreational use in more than half of US states, it is important for pharmacists to educate parents regarding the risk of accidental poisoning.5 Parents should be aware that these products may be at schools or parties, and children should be educated about the adverse effects of ingesting these products. Overdose effects can be severe especially in young children and may include altered perception, anxiety, panic, paranoia, dizziness, weakness, slurred speech, poor coordination, apnea, and cardiovascular problems. 
Marijuana edibles often resemble regular sweets, and popular products include baked goods such as cookies and brownies, chocolate bars, gummy candies, and sweetened beverages like sodas and lemonade.  Pharmacists should discuss that these products should be stored locked away and out of reach from children.  Alarmingly, a single marijuana cookie or candy bar can contain several times the recommended adult dose of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  Edible marijuana products have an effect within 30-60 minutes after being ingested and absorbed by the digestive system, with a peak effect 3-4 hours after being eaten.5 

Pharmacists can help ensure that children and teens have a healthy and safe school year.

  1. For parents:  vaccines for your children.  CDC website.  https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html.  Accessed August 11, 2017.
  2. Back-to-school tips.  AAP website.  https://healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Back-to-School-Tips.aspx.  Accessed August 12, 2017.
  3. Schools start too early.  CDC website.  https://www.cdc.gov/features/school-start-times/index.html.  Accessed August 12, 2017.
  4. Adolescent Sleep Working Group and Committee on Adolescence, and Council on School Health.  School start times for adolescents.  Pediatr.  2014;134:642-649.
  5. Ryan SA, Ammerman SD.  AAP Committee on Substance Use and Prevention.  Counseling parents and teens about marijuana use in the era of legalization of marijuana.  Pediatr.  2017;139(3):e20164069.

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2