As the new school year approaches, Dr. Ehab Molokhia, professor of family medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, says it is important for parents to think about their child’s health and to establish healthy habits that will make the transition to school easier.

Eating breakfast is one of the most important aspects of a child’s well being when they go back to school, and it may be helpful to try and establish a good morning routine to get your child ready.

“Breakfast boosts a student’s performance in class,” said Dr. Molokhia. He also recommends encouraging children to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and to drink water instead of sugary drinks. Also, parents are encouraged to switch to low fat milk, which still has the calcium children need without the fat in whole milk.

Dr. Molokhia says that is also important to investigate the lunches served at your child’s school. “If your child eats at school, parents should be aware of what is served,” Dr. Molokhia said. “Food served at school is not necessarily healthy, and if that is the case, packing a nutritious lunch for them is highly recommended.”

Your child should see a primary care physician’s office for a wellness examination annually. These visits normally include a vision and hearing test, which Dr. Molokhia says is important to detect early because problems with vision and hearing can lead to poor school performance. Also, he says dental checkups are encouraged for school-aged children every six to 12 months.

It is highly encouraged and recommended for children to participate in sports and exercise regularly. Dr. Molokhia recommends that your child be examined at their primary care physician prior to enrollment in sports activities.

Immunizations are also an important aspect of your child’s health. According to Dr. Molokhia, parents should be sure to get their child an annual vaccination for influenza (flu) which is typically offered to the public beginning in September. “School-aged children are highly encouraged to receive the annual flu vaccination as they constitute an especially high risk population,” he said.

Tetanus boosters are also recommended every 10 years, however, if your child has not received a pertusis booster recently, Dr. Molokhia says they should receive the Tdap vaccination, which combines it with the recommended tetanus booster.

He also recommends that children - both boys and girls - receive the vaccine series against human papilloma virus starting at age nine. This vaccination offers protection against cervical cancer and genital warts in their adulthood.

In addition, Dr. Molokhia says parents should have a copy of their child’s records on hand that is up-to-date. “The records should include an accurate description of any allergies they have to medications as well as their immunization records,” he said. “A list of any illnesses they are receiving treatment for is extremely important to ensure their safety.”

To make an appointment with any USA physician, call (251) 434-3711.

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