Back to school

Back to School

This time of year can be overwhelmingly busy for many families. We thought a quick list of tips to help you protect the health and safety of your kids might be homework worthwhile. Study up!

 Stay hydrated to stay cool
One of the best ways to prevent heat-related illnesses is to drink plenty of water. If allowed, send a water bottle to school with your child or encourage them to use the school’s water fountain several times a day. It’s also important to limit caffeine because it can make dehydration worse.

Not the right kind of energy
The sugar and caffeine found in energy drinks may make them a popular choice for your child, but the effects of these drinks are short lived and not a healthy option. Instead, help your child plan for a healthy breakfast and adequate sleep at night for a healthy energy boost that will last throughout the day.

Leave the fidget spinner at home
Unless it’s been recommended by your child’s physician, a fidget spinner is probably not the best solution to improve your child’s focus in school. In fact, these toys create more distraction for most students making it more difficult to pay attention in class.

Stop the spread of germs
Everyone should wash their hands before eating food, after a bathroom visit and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. Children who learn these habits at home and at school will be exposed to fewer germs and less illness.

Remind your child to lather the backs of their hands, between their fingers, and under their nails. Make it fun by encouraging your child to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. This takes about 20 seconds, which is how long the Centers for Disease Control says you should scrub your hands.

Protect their skin
Your child may be outside during P.E. classes or recess, which means they need sunscreen. Alabama recently enacted a law that allows students at public and private schools to use sunscreen despite any existing regulations that restrict the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications while at school. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the use of sun block can lessen exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun’s rays, the most common cause of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

Fueling your child with a healthy lunch
The purpose of lunch is to fuel your child’s brain for the afternoon classes and to fuel their bodies for after-school activities. If you want to provide your child with a nutrient-rich meal that has lasting energy then getting them involved in planning and preparing their lunch will help. Start by talking with your child about which lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables they prefer, and build from there. It’s also good to include a dairy item like yogurt, cheese or milk.

Suicide prevention
Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for Alabama children 10-14 years old, behind only car wrecks. It is imperative that parents know the signs of suicidal feelings, which are similar to those of depression. Parents also need to know what to say, what not to say and how to get help if their child is suffering. The SPEAK (Suicide Prevention, Empowerment, Awareness and Knowledge) program has launched a free smart phone app called SPEAK North Alabama. It’s a quick reference of signs to look for and where to go for help. The app is available on Google Play Store and the App Store. If you or someone you know needs help, call (800) 273-8255 or HELPline at (256) 716-1000.

Teen driving dangers
Texting, drinking and driving, driving in the dark, speeding, and not wearing seatbelts are some of the riskiest driving behaviors of teen drivers. Research from Safe Kids Worldwide and General Motors Foundation reveals parents can play an important role in reducing these behaviors by talking with their teens, formalizing – and enforcing – a family agreement about driving rules and modeling good behavior. The other key to a safe teen driver is allowing your teen time to practice driving skills with you in the car. Safe Kids Worldwide recommends that teens get at least 50 hours of experience behind the wheel, under a variety of conditions, before setting out on their own.

Protect their brain
Educators, coaches and parents are the first line of defense to protect children from the damage that concussions can cause. First and foremost, be sure they wear helmets for any wheeled activities like biking and sports activities like football. Be on the lookout for concussion symptoms if your child has even a mild head injury. When in doubt, seek medical attention.

Concussion symptoms:

  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Headache
  • Fuzzy or blurry vision, dizziness, balance problems
  • Irritability, nervousness or anxiety
  • Sleeping more than usual or less than usual
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Nausea or vomiting (early on)
  • Sadness or more emotional than usual
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Difficulty remembering new information
  • Feeling tired, having no energy

Editorial Board

Jessica Branscome MDJessica Branscome, MD is the medical director of the Pediatric ER at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. Dr. Branscome is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Jennifer Cox, MDJennifer Cox, MD is medical director of the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. Dr. Cox is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in Pediatrics and in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. Mark Sapp, MDMark Sapp, MD is a pediatric hospitalist in the Pediatric Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. He is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.




Libby Shadinger, MDLibby Shadinger, MD is medical director of the Huntsville Hospital and Madison Hospital Breast Centers. She is board certified by the American Board of Radiology in Diagnostic Radiology. Aparna Vuppala MDAparna Vuppala, MD is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Behavioral Sciences of Alabama. Dr. Vuppala is a member of the Alabama Regional Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Juliana Wright, RD, LDJuliana Wright, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with Madison Hospital Wellness Center.