Maria H. Drzaszcz
Healthy ways to start the new school year
It is the most exciting, or,for some heading back to work, the most dreaded time of year. That’s right folks; we are well into September already, which means back to school. This coming school year looks to be a somewhat normal one. Remember school before year 2020? Yes, that kind of year, fingers crossed! Here are some tips to start the year off on a happy and healthy one.
Getting back into a routine. Most kids have had later than usual summer nights with sleeping in becoming a habit for many. Now that school is back in session, kids are going to be getting up earlier and having longer days full of learning and after school activities. Children thrive on a regular routine. Regular sleep deprivation often leads to difficult behaviors and health problems, such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, obesity, headaches and depression.
Children who get enough sleep have a healthier immune system and also better school performance, behavior, memory and mental health, according to healthychildren.org. The same waking time, meal times and nap time for younger children will help your child feel secure and comfortable, and also helps with a smooth bedtime. Generally speaking, younger children (preschool age) need 10-13 hours of sleep per day. This includes any naps they may be taking. Older, school aged children need approximately 9-12 hours a night. Teens need 8-10 hours. Remember to make regular sleep a priority in your household.
Make sure kids are up to date on yearly well child checks. We all get off schedule a bit, especially as children get older, but make sure kids are seen at their pediatrician on a yearly basis. This is a good time to get sport/ school physical forms completed, discuss any physical, social or emotional concerns, and make sure vaccines are up to date.
Stay up to date on emerging CDC guidance for new COVID 19 vaccines and boosters. New omicron specific COVID-19 vaccines are becoming available now. Pfizer’s booster shots with an omicron component were recently approved for individuals aged 12 and up. The Moderna omicron boosters also just received authorization for anyone age 18 and older. It is likely these omicron specific shots will be approved for kids aged 5-11 in the next several weeks or coming months. If you or your children are due for boosters or your primary doses, it’s worth keeping an eye on the new shots and new recommendations.
Remember those yearly flu shots too. As if staying on top of COVID-19 vaccines isn’t enough of a task, we can’t forget about seasonal influenza. Flu shots are available now and will be heading into the fall and winter. I recommend getting a yearly flu shot in October or early November, that way you are protected all the way through flu season, which can sometimes extend well into April and May. Walgreens now offers flu shots to kids 3 years and older. For some parents, this can save some time scheduling and going to the regular pediatrician for a flu shot.
Wishing all a healthy and happy start to a new school year!
Maria H. Drzaszcz, a Hammonton resident, is a registered nurse with 14 years critical care experience and is the proud mom of three young children.