Back to School Health Tips

HOUSTON (August 3, 2009) – A new school year is around the corner and the Harris County Hospital District’s medical experts want your children to get off to a healthy start.

Here are some health tips and reminders to get your child’s school year off to a great start.

School-aged children in Harris County must have proof of current vaccinations before they are allowed to begin the school year.

“Immunizations are incredibly important,” said Dr. Bianca Jasani, medical director and pediatrician at El Franco Lee Health Center. “They protect against preventable diseases that still exist.”

Not only do immunizations keep kids healthy, they save lives.

“The benefits of getting your child immunized definitely outweigh the risk,” said Dr. Monique Jones, pediatrician at El Franco Lee Health Center. 

Drs. Jasani and Jones have seen what happens when children or their family members aren’t immunized. During their residencies both saw two babies – a one month old and a three month old – die from pertussis.

On March 5, 2009 the executive commissioner on health and human services approved several revisions to the immunization requirements for children and students starting August 1, 2009. For a list of required immunizations, visit the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Web site.

Eye Exam
As the new school year approaches, a back-to-school eye exam can help children return to school, ready to focus and learn.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that more than 12 million children have a visual impairment that can worsen and lead to permanent vision loss and delayed development if left untreated.

Children learn by using all their senses, especially the sense of sight. And optimal vision ensures a child has the right means toward a great learning environment.

Symptoms that may be indicative of eye problems include squinting to see things, holding books too close to the face, red and irritated eyes, even complaints of headaches. Parents may also notice one of their child’s eye turning in a certain direction or crossing.

There are many other symptoms that could indicate a vision or eye problem. That’s why parents should schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

All children should have a comprehensive eye examination before they start kindergarten.

One “sense” that is often overlooked is hearing.

Children with minor hearing impairments can be up to 10 times more likely to have trouble in school, or even fail a grade, than children with normal hearing, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

“If a child has a hearing problem, it can not only impair their speech development, but lead to poor academic performance,” Jones said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obesity has increased among school-age children and adolescents, which has put them at greater risk for other health concerns such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Inadequate diet and physical activity are contributing factors for childhood obesity.

Jasani and Jones suggest following the “Five-Two-One-None” rule, which calls for:

Five servings of fruits and vegetables
Less than two hours of screen time
One hour of physical activity
None – no sugary drinks or sodas

Flu Shots
If you child did not receive a flu shot last year, go ahead and get one before school starts. This will help protect them during the first few months of school, in a year that may see heavy flu transmission.

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