Summer is quickly coming to a close. The signs are every where. Giant flip flops hanging from store ceilings have been replaced with enormous pencils and rulers. Packages for crayons are once again a quarter and store flyers are heralding Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Train backpacks as their hot items.
When looking for that perfect backpack you will want to make sure it has more than the right character or color. Backpacks should have two wide, padded straps and a padded back. Though it might not look cool, to prevent back injury or pain make sure your kids use both straps to distribute weight evenly across the back. And, avoid packing too much into the backpack. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends backpacks should weigh no more than 10-20 percent of a child’s weight. If a child can’t stand upright while walking with the backpack it’s too heavy.
So, what should go into the backpacks?
After all the homework and textbooks there isn’t much room for anything else. Still, it might be a good idea to pack some hand sanitizer. Most children get 6-12 colds a year and the best way to fight off a cold is good hand-washing hygiene. Encourage your kids to wash their hands after using the bathroom, following recess and gym class, and before eating. Trying to get to class on time can limit access to soap and water so a hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Early in the school year thrown in some sunscreen as well to keep kids safe from UV rays when playing outside.
Also, make sure your kids are up-to-date on vaccines. We have seen the worst outbreak of whooping cough in nearly 50 years in the U.S. this year. The best way to keep your kids safe is to keep up with their vaccination schedule. Talk to your doctor about a flu shot as well. It’s the best defense against a potentially deadly virus.
Another great back-to-school debate is whether a child should purchase or bring their lunch. If you decided to pack a lunch for your kids consider using ice packs to keep lunches cool. Recent studies have shown that lunches that are not kept at a cooled temperature are at a greater risk of giving a child a food-borne illness. Packing a lunch is a great way to ensure your child is getting a well-rounded, healthy meal. Lunch items should provide combinations of lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Watch portion size and get creative with what you pack.
Another nutritional must is breakfast. It’s the most skipped meal of the day, but it’s extremely important for kids to have a healthy breakfast to have the energy they need to make it through the day. If your house is like ours sitting down for breakfast is rare so stock-up on healthy, portable breakfast items such as breakfast bars, fruit and drinkable yogurt so kids can grab something on the go.
If your child has a food allergy, asthma or other condition that require medication make sure you and your physician are in contact with the school nurse. Before the school year begins make sure your child has access to non-expired medication, through the school’s health office, in case of emergency.
Dr. Kevin Polsley is an integral part of the Loyola University Health System’s primary care team. He specializes in adult internal medicine and pediatrics and enjoys seeing patients of all ages from infants to older adults at the Loyola Center for Health at Homer Glen. In addition, he is an assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in the departments of internal medicine and pediatrics. When not seeing patients he enjoys time with his wife and preschool daughter, hiking and music.