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Expert advice for keeping kids healthy this school year


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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is advising that keeping children healthy this fall – both physically and mentally – will require more than vaccines and good hand hygiene. The AAP also recommends that parents pay heed to the pressure to catch up; the needs of students with disabilities and high risks; the importance of immunizations, doctor visits and good nutrition; and dealing with anxiety and stress. 

Pressure to catch up. Students may not have gained as much from distance learning, the AAP warns. Schools should be prepared to adjust curricula and not expect to make up all lost progress. Likewise, parents should be prepared to help their students catch up by talking frequently with their child’s teachers, helping with homework or employing outside assistance as needed. The AAP also suggests that it’s important to balance core subjects with physical education and other learning experiences.

Students with disabilities. The impact of schools being closed may have been greater for students with disabilities. They may have a difficult time transitioning back to school after missing out on instruction time as well as school-based services such as occupational, physical and speech-language therapy and mental health support counseling. If your child has an Individual Education Program, try to schedule a review before the start of school or as early in the new school year as possible. 

Immunizations. The AAP advises that it is important for students to be up to date on their immunizations. Likewise, the AAP notes that it will be critical for students and staff to receive flu shots this year to reduce the spread of influenza. Reducing the incidence of flu will help in preventing confusion between the many strains influenza and COVID-19.

Doctor visits. If your child participates in extracurricular activities like sports or band, talk with your pediatrician to see if they need a pre-participation physical exam. The AAP also says that key well-child visits are also important.  

Behavioral health/emotional support. According to the AAP, your child’s school should anticipate and be prepared to address a wide range of mental health needs, both of students and staff. Schools should provide mental health support to any student struggling with stress from the pandemic and recognize students who show signs of anxiety or distress. Schools also can help students with suicidal thoughts or behavior get needed support. 

Nutrition. Good nutrition is key to staying healthy. Talk with your child about choosing good options for breakfast, lunch and snacks as well as the need to stay hydrated. Make a plan with your child to help them meet their nutritional needs and goals. 

Students at higher risk. While COVID-19 school policies can reduce risk, they will not prevent it entirely. Even with safety steps in place, some students with high-risk medical conditions may need to continue distance learning or other accommodations. Talk with your pediatrician and school staff (including school nurses) to determine if your child can safely return to school.

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