A Safe and Healthy School Year

How to get your child ready for a safe and healthy return to school

(RxWiki News) Backpack? Check. Books? Check. Pencils? Check. Health and safety? With the school year starting, there's another thing not to forget: back-to-school medical needs.

Here are some important health issues to be aware of as you get your children school-ready.

Back Problems

Even with lockers at school, increasing school loads are forcing children to carry heavier bags. If your children’s bags look too heavy, there may be cause for concern.

When carrying heavy shoulder bags, there is uneven weight on the shoulders. While the short-term effects of soreness may be nothing unusual, in the long term, a heavy shoulder bag can contribute to the spine curving sideways, a condition known as scoliosis.

On the other hand, backpacks pull you backward instead of sideways. This can contribute to a condition called kyphosis, also known as a hunchback, due to the effort to hunch forward while carrying the backpack.

Bags should be less than 10 percent of the carrier's body weight. If a heavier bag is unavoidable, try using larger straps or carrying shoulder bags closer to the body and alternating sides.

Head Lice

These parasitic insects are mostly found among human hairs. They feed on blood from the scalp. They are highly contagious and spread through head-to-head contact. Classic symptoms include constant scratching of the head that does not subside. You may notice small red bumps or a rash. This can happen from scratching. If you notice any of these symptoms, inspect the scalp for any tiny yellow or brown lice eggs or for grayish-white, sesame seed-sized lice.

Talk to your health care provider to come up with a plan to best treat your child and household. Treatment can vary, depending on your child’s age and what you have previously tried.

Before school starts, tell your child to avoid head-to-head contact, not to share personal items that touch the hair, and not to lie on things or places used by someone with lice. Finally, check the school’s return policy.

Cough and Cold Season

The start of the school year also means the start of cough and cold season. Be sure to follow these simple steps to keep your children healthy this fall:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Although it's a very simple task, hand-washing is one of the most effective ways to stay healthy in school. Remind your child to frequently wash his or her hands, especially before eating and after using the bathroom, nose blowing or playing outdoors.
    • If hand-washing is not possible, hand sanitizer may be useful, especially before eating and after sharing communal objects like pencil sharpeners, water fountains and computers.
  • Cover mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Remind your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into the elbow crease. And, of course, remind your child to dispose of the used tissue and clean his or her hands (wash with soap or use hand sanitizer).
  • Avoid touching your eyes and mouth. Hands are typically covered in germs. Remind your child to avoid touching his or her eyes or mouth.
  • Do not share personal items like food or water bottles.


Every school is different in its policy on medications. Be sure to ask your child's school nurse about the school policy. This becomes important when your child needs to take a dose of a medication during the day.

Whether it's a dose of your child's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication or an inhaler for exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (also known as exercise-induced asthma), your child and the school nurse should know the plan.

Also, speak with the school nurse about an emergency action plan for potential medical emergencies. This way, the school staff will know what to do in case of an asthma attack, severe allergic reaction or other health emergency.

In most cases, the school should have a supply of your child's medication so school staff can administer it in the event of an emergency.

On top of everything we have discussed above, don't forget the basics. Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep, exercise and healthy food. These may be basic concepts, but they go a long way.

If you have concerns about your child's health, speak with your family health care provider.