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Growing Healthy Grade By Grade

Written by  Brandy Centolanza

All parents want their children to start off the new school year fresh and healthy! Here are some safety and wellness tips to keep in mind to reduce the risk of illness or injury depending on what grade your son or daughter is entering this year.

Kindergarten: Children tend to get sick more once a new school year rolls around. Ensure your child gets the flu shot annually. Flu shots are typically available beginning in August. “Avoid sending your child to school sick to reduce spreading illness, and especially to not have your child catch something else while their immune system is hard at work on one illness,” says Melody M. Ailsworth, MD a pediatrician with Richeson Drive Pediatrics. Do not send your child back to school until they are fever free for 24 hours.

1st Grade: If your child has a chronic condition that requires daily medication, inform the school and fill out all necessary forms. “Make sure your child understands how to let their teacher know when to ask for medication,” says Dr. Ailsworth. “Talk with your child's teacher about their medications and what works best for your child.”

2nd Grade: As children start heading off to the school bus stop on their own, remind them of school bus safety: look both ways before crossing a street, wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before stepping off the curb, and remain seated while the bus is in motion. Parents may also wish to reiterate “stranger dangers” rules.

3rd Grade: Food allergies affect one in 25 children. Make sure your child’s school has a plan in place should your child have a reaction. “Parents can also encourage children with food allergies to not trade food with other kids, not eat anything they aren't sure about the ingredients, wash hands before and after eating, notify an adult right away if they suspect a reaction, know how to use the epi-pen, and tell someone if they are being bullied about their allergy,” says Jay Michael Cline, MD, a pediatric ENT physician with Blue Ridge Ear, Nose and Throat & Plastic Surgery.

4th Grade: Schedule annual appointments with an eye doctor to ensure they have healthy vision. Most issues with sight are hereditary and occur between the ages of seven and 13. “The most common vision conditions in children are nearsightedness (trouble seeing far away), farsightedness (trouble seeing up close) and astigmatism, which can affect vision both far and near,” says Gary H. St. Clair, OD with St. Clair Eye Care. “Common symptoms of nearsightedness are squinting, sitting close to the TV, and holding books close to the face, while common symptoms of farsightedness may be difficulty reading and holding books farther away.”

5th Grade: School bullying is often a concern. Keep open communication with your child’s teacher. If your child starts complaining of headaches or bellyaches or simply not wanting to go to school, speak with your child’s teacher about what might be happening.

6th Grade: Students become more involved in sports activities in middle school. For maximum performance, ensure your student athlete is up-to-date on any physical examinations; chooses the right team for his or her size, weight, and skill; uses safe equipment; and knows when his or her body has had enough and needs time to rest.

7th Grade: Acne may start to become an issue at this age as children begin puberty. Remind your child to wash their face every day. “Start with a good facial cleanser and use it when you are in the shower,” suggests Samantha Hill, MD, a pediatric dermatologist with RidgeView Dermatology. “It helps to make it a part of your daily routine. Consistency is also key.”

8th Grade: Assist children with the development of good homework and study habits, including organization. To alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue or brain fatigue during study sessions, students should take frequent breaks, getting up to stretch or have a snack.

9th Grade: Encourage your child to eat healthy throughout the day and avoid skipping meals. See to it that “they have a good breakfast that is low in sugar,” recommends Dr. Ailsworth. Also ensure your teen “stays hydrated by drinking water, and eats three or more meals a day,” she adds.

10th Grade: Proper rest is vital for academic performance for all students, especially teenagers. Ensure your teen gets plenty of sleep - eight to ten hours of shut-eye is recommended for children aged 13-18 - and limit caffeine intake and screen time before bed.

11th Grade: Teach new drivers to play it safe with the cell phone while they are in the car. Student drivers should turn off their phones or place them out of reach while they are behind the wheel to avoid an accident.

12th Grade: Kids this age still need plenty of physical activity. Encourage your child to find time during the day for exercise, whether it’s walking or biking to school, or trying an exercise video. Developing proper fitness habits now will set them up for life.




Expert Contributors:
Melody M. Ailsworth, MD is a pediatrician with Richeson Drive Pediatrics in Lynchburg.
Jay Michael Cline, MD, is a pediatric ENT physician with Blue Ridge Ear, Nose and Throat & Plastic Surgery in Lynchburg.
Samantha Hill, MD, is a pediatric dermatologist with RidgeView Dermatology in Lynchburg.
Gary H. St. Clair, OD is an optometrist with St. Clair Eye Care in Lynchburg.

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