Health During the School Year: First With Kids - Vermont Children's Hospital, Fletcher Allen

Make the Honor Roll When It Comes to Keeping Your Children Healthy During the School Year

School is back in session and parents have been testing me on ways their children can stay healthy during the school year. Well, let me take on that assignment and provide a few back to school tips on preventing sick days during the school year.

Start things off right and get your child an annual physical exam before the beginning of the school year. It is also important to keep immunizations up to date. If your child does have a medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or even a food allergy, review what to do about it with the school nurse, including any medications that need to be administered while your child is at school.

Make sure your children wash their hands before eating lunch, after using the bathroom, and when they get done with activities such as gym, where they can pick up germs from others through close contact during an outdoor or indoor sports game.

Encourage your children to keep their hands away from their mouth and eyes, especially after someone coughs or sneezes on them. This is important since germs can land on your children’s hands from other children with cold symptoms and in turn be introduced into your children’s bodies—especially if hands are not washed before they do touch their face or go inside their mouth.                    

Remind your children not to drink from the same cups or share combs or brushes since germs such as viruses and even head lice can spread this way very easily.

Ensure that your children get enough sleep—at least eight, but more likely 10 hours are required for most children, including teenagers (and not just on the weekends).

Finally, make sure your children are fed a nutritious and balanced diet to ensure that they get all the vitamins and minerals they need. That starts with breakfast, either provided at home or at school, if you want your child to have the energy and brain power to get a good start to the school day.

Hopefully, with tips like these you’ll pass the test when it comes to keeping your children or toddlers healthy at school or day care this year.  

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at