Prepare Parents for Back-to-School Season

Publication
Article
Pharmacy TimesAugust 2023
Volume 89
Issue 8

A bit of preparation can set children up for success and reduce the stress of this busy time.

Ah, it’s almost fall. Time for cooler weather, shorter days, and kids going back to school. Pharmacists can advise parents to start preparing now to set children up for a healthy, safe, and successful school year. Although school is not in session just yet, schools are staffed at this point, so any questions are able to be answered before the madness begins.

Back to School of Mother and pupil and kids holding hands going to school | Image credit: Kiattisak - stock.adobe.com

Mother and kids holding hands going to school | Image credit: Kiattisak - stock.adobe.com

PHYSICALS

A school physical is also known as a well-child visit. Scheduling these during the summer allows for timely information and will not require absences from school to attend. An annual physical covers a variety of topics1:

  • Monitor developmental progress: During a routine physical, the provider will examine all the child’s body systems to ensure there are no apparent deficiencies. This allows for early intervention should anything arise.
  • Review immunizations: The provider will review the child’s immunization history and make recommendations for future immunizations.
  • Convey safety information: Providers will often directly ask children whether they take appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet when biking and wearing a seat belt in the car.
  • Athlete care: Student athletes may require some special discussions, such as how to manage sports training and prevent injuries.

IMMUNIZATIONS

State and local vaccine requirements for school entry are important to maintain high vaccination rates. State laws govern vaccination requirements for schools, both public and private.2

According to the CDC, health care providers should make strong recommendations for parents to keep up with childhood vaccinations at every possible opportunity, including well-child checks, sports physicals, and other opportunities. In addition to routine vaccinations, children should also be up-to-date on the latest recommended COVID-19 vaccines.3

Pharmacists can help improve vaccine accessibility, as well, by sending reminders to families whose children are behind on vaccines, notifying families when children are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, offering vaccinations at appointments when possible, and administering COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as other routinely recommended vaccines.3

Exemptions are available, and all states have medical exemptions for children who are immunocompromised, have an allergy to a vaccine ingredient, have had a serious reaction to a vaccine, or have any other medical reasons they can’t receive vaccines. Most states also have religious and personal or philosophical exemptions.2

MEDICAL RECORDS

Schools require updated medical information each year. Advise parents that the summer is a great time to get fresh copies of immunization records and a copy of the completed physical paperwork. It is also a great time to update any medical conditions or allergies with the school.

Updating emergency contacts is important as well. The school needs to know who to contact in case of emergency. It’s a good idea to create an emergency contact card to keep in a child’s backpack, and the CDC provides a printable card for this use.4

MEDICATIONS

If a child requires prescription or nonprescription medication during school hours, written consent must be provided by both the provider and the parent or guardian. The appropriate paperwork can be obtained from the school nurse. This holds true for medications taken daily and medications taken as needed.5

If a child has a history of allergic reactions, pain or headaches, or any other condition, medication should be held in the nurse’s office in case it is needed. Teachers should also be aware of any severe issues, especially ones that need immediate medical attention, such as anaphylaxis reaction to an allergen and seizure disorders. Under these circumstances, a child may be permitted to carry their medication at school.5

All medications to be taken at school need to be in their original container and labeled with the child’s name, name of the medication, dosage to be given, route of administration, frequency of administration, physician name, date of prescription fill, and expiration date.5

VISION EXAMS

Vision helps children take in the world around them and plays a key role in their development. Uncorrected vision problems may negatively affect their ability to learn.6

A vision screening can be done by a pediatrician, school nurse, or other health care professional and can be used to identify children who may require additional eye care.

A comprehensive vision exam is performed by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist and can diagnose medical or vision problems and provide corrective treatment.6

DENTAL EXAMS AND CLEANINGS

Good dental hygiene is important for overall health. Brushing and flossing regularly reduce the risk of other health issues. Dental exams are also important for oral health, including teeth, gums, and all the bones and muscles that allow for smiling, speaking, and chewing.7

Dental visits provide the opportunity to get a deep cleaning to remove tartar and plaque, apply fluoride or sealants, have x-rays to find hidden decay, and get tips on how the child can improve their oral hygiene.7

SUPPLIES

One of the most important supplies to provide a child for a healthy school year is a reusable water bottle. Glass water bottles are the healthiest, although they are impractical for children because they are breakable and heavy. Parents should invest in a stainless steel or aluminum reusable water bottle made without bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S. Polycarbonate contains BPA, which can affect brain development and behavior.8

A backpack is also an important investment. Choose a backpack that fits the child’s width and back, with broad, padded straps to evenly distribute weight. Backpacks should be packed with the heaviest items sitting closer to the child’s back and lighter items placed further from the back to avoid strain.

STRESS

Starting school for the first time or entering a new grade is exciting. Students may be looking forward to seeing friends and meeting teachers, but it’s also very stressful. Some ways to help children manage stress are to remain positive and foster familiarity.

Pointing out the positives of going back to school can also help reduce stress. New school supplies, new clothes, old friends, new friends, and fun classes all sound wonderful!

Fostering familiarity by visiting the school before school starts and walking through each day’s routine can significantly help reduce stress, especially if it’s a new school. Helping students find their lockers, their classrooms, the cafeteria, the office, and even the bathrooms can go a long way to reducing some of the unknowns.

Easing into the school-day nighttime routine starting a few weeks before school begins will also help prepare children for school without the shock of changing everything at once.

Finally, parents can help their child find a friend who will also be attending the same school. Having a buddy before the school year begins will help ease the stress and help the child know they are not alone.

About the Author

Kathleen Kenny, PharmD, RPh, earned her doctorate from the University of Colorado. She has more than 25 years of experience as a community pharmacist and works as a clinical medical writer based out of Homosassa, Florida.

References

  1. Schedule your child’s back-to-school physical before fall. Mayo Clinic Health System. July 14, 2021. Accessed June 17, 2023. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/scheduleyour-childs-back-to-school-physical
  2. State vaccination requirements. CDC. Updated November 15, 2016. Accessed June 17, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/laws/state-reqs.html
  3. CDC call to action: add routine & COVID-19 vaccinations to the back-to-school checklist. CDC. Accessed July 13, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/clinical-resources/downloads/safe-return -school.pdf
  4. Healthy return to school checklist. CDC. Updated September 15, 2022. Accessed June 18, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/back-to-school.htm
  5. Administering medication at school: tips for parents. HealthyChildren.org. Updated December 19, 2016. Accessed June 18, 2023. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/Administering-Medication-at-Child-Care-or-School.aspx
  6. Keep an eye on your child’s vision. CDC. Updated February 24, 2023. Accessed June 18, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/resources/features/vision-health-children.html
  7. Dental exam. MedlinePlus. Updated May 9, 2023. Accessed June 18, 2023.https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/dental-exam/
  8. Welch C, Mulligan K. Does bisphenol A confer risk of neurodevelopmental disorders? What we have learned from developmental neurotoxicity studies in animal models. Int J Mol Sci. 2022;23(5):2894. doi:10.3390/ijms23052894

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