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Back-to-School Health Checklist

Experts say how to keep your child on the right track to health this school year.

Other Advice

Some important information parents should tell the school about their child includes:

  • Above all, make sure your child's emergency telephone number card is accurate and kept current. "You can't just drop the kid off at school and drive away," Mac Donald says. If you move or change a number, correct it the next day. At her schools, numbers are listed in order they are to be called: mother, father, grandmother, or whatever the parents designate. The child's physician and dentist also need to be listed. "I have had to take a kid with a knocked-out tooth to the dentist and have the mother meet me there," she says. "We needed all the phone numbers."
  • The school nurse and/or school secretary also needs to know what medications your child takes, Mac Donald says. Even if the child takes the medication only at home, the nurse should know. If the child is to take the drugs at school, she says, they must be in the pharmacy bottle, clearly marked (not an envelope, for instance).
  • Any health problems should be made known to the school. Allergies are a good example. "There are so many [allergies] now to foods, plants, trees, beestings, or latex. The school has to know in advance," Mac Donald says.
  • Also inform the school of physical restrictions. Does the child have asthma, a scoliosis brace, or a heart murmur? How should this affect physical activity?

Tests and Services the School May Perform

Some schools are sending home "weight report cards," advising parents how to deal with childhood obesity. Mac Donald's district does color testing, especially in boys, in the early elementary years. Hearing tests are performed in kindergarten, second grade, fifth grade, eighth grade, 10th grade, and in special education, too.

Scoliosis screens may also be given to see if your child's spine is growing according to plan. Does your child have a shoulder or hip higher than the other? This can be picked up. "The spine can curve so much it puts pressure on the heart," Mac Donald says.

Children also are worked up to see if they could benefit from special education. "Many of our children had parents who used drugs or alcohol and their nervous systems were affected," Mac Donald says. "They need special training and treatment."

The school may also give health training. "I think that would be good," Santesteban says.

What Else Can Parents Do?

"The school said to be sure the kids wore closed-toe shoes," Santesteban says. The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that parents not strap a jumbo backpack on their children -- never more than 20% of the child's body weight (those books can add up). Some children even prefer a rolling backpack like the wheeled suitcase their parents take on business trips. Make sure the backpack has wide straps and a padded back.

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