Back to School Tips to Making It a Healthful School Year

It’s back to school time in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are about 42 million U.S. adolescents, age 10 to 19, and about 91 percent are enrolled in schools. About 40 percent of these are low-income and are at a higher level of health need. Staying healthy during the school year is important for students and their families. No one wants to be sick or have health problems while in school. This month’s article focuses on tips to help make it a more healthful school year. These tips may help foster lifelong healthful behaviors.

 

Prevention is Key

Getting sick can lead to expensive medical costs, missed work and school days, and even missed quality social time spent with family and friends. School absenteeism can also affect student academic performance and possibly even delay graduation. There is an old wise saying, “An ounce of prevention is better than an ounce of cure.” Instill healthful habits.

On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, CDC’s Director of Division of Adolescent and School Health Dr. Stephanie Zaza and team hosted a Public Health Grand Rounds talk entitled, Adolescence: Preparing for Lifelong Health and Wellness. At this talk, she reminded the listeners that U.S. students often engage in risky behaviors that lead to problems at school, home and work. She stated that serious health and safety issues are motor vehicle crashes, violence, substance use and risky sexual behavior. Many of these issues can be prevented.

Below are some general tips from health experts for making it a more healthful school year:

 

Tip 1: Healthful School Lunches

According to health experts, breakfast improves academic performance in school-age students. Make breakfast part of your daily routine. School lunches are very important, too. School lunches should include nutritious food like lean protein (chicken, beef, fish, even beans), some fresh fruits and vegetables and very little, if any, processed foods that are high in salt, fat, sugar, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives (aka junk food). Beverages with nutrition power like water and milk should also be consumed.

Healthful school lunches and snacks can help students maintain a healthful weight (prevent obesity). Getting enough sleep during school nights (all year long), exercising at least the recommended 30 minutes a day, limiting time with TV/videos/computer games are also strategies that may help maintain a healthful weight. Talk with your doctor and school nurse to learn more about your nutritional needs.

 

Tip 2: Make Sure You Are Up-To-Date on Vaccines

According the CDC, school-age children from preschoolers to college students need vaccines that help ensure long-term health. Your state may require students going to school to be vaccinated against certain diseases. If you are unsure which vaccines you need, it is time to check with your doctor, your school nurses or your local health department.

Vaccines schedules are written recommendations for the routine administration of vaccines, along with schedules regarding the appropriate time, dosage and side effects.

 

Tip 3: Take Steps to Prevent the Flu

Protect yourself against the flu by getting vaccinated each year in the fall. Talk with your doctor and local pharmacists to learn more about the flu and how to get a flu shot.

According to the CDC, the flu virus is easily spread from one person to another. It is important to cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often. Try to stay home if you get sick with the flu, so you can rest and not spread it.

 

Tip 4: Be Alert and Practice Safety When Crossing a Street

According the CDC, many injuries can be prevented at school. Examples are injuries at the playground, pedestrian crosswalk or traffic areas. Many fatalities among young pedestrians most often occur during the after-school hours. The majority of the pedestrian fatalities are boys. Also, nearly 1 in 4 traffic deaths are among children ages 14 and under.

 

Tip 5: Be Informed about the Consequences of Drugs Use and Sex

According to the CDC, binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men over a short period of time. Binge drinking often increases your chances for risky sexual behavior, unintended pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI), car crashes, legal problems from driving under the influence, violence and alcohol poisoning. Know the facts about alcohol use, alcohol poisoning and ways to prevent alcohol death.

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are also a problem. According to the CDC, half of all new STIs occur among young people under the age of 25. College students and others who are sexually active should get tested for STIs to know their status and protect them themselves and their sexual partners.

 

Tip 6: Find Ways to Manage Stress

Experts say that some students drink, smoke and use drugs due to stress. Therefore, managing stress and maintaining good work-life balance is important. Talk to your doctor about finding ways to manage your stress. Experts recommend engaging in physical activities (exercising), and volunteering at your favorite organization or church activity helps better manage stress levels. Some La Voz Latina Central readers say that they manage stress by exercising, swimming, walking, dancing, yoga, Pilates, meditation and/or by writing, engaging in art and painting, performing in musicals and dance recitals and/or just having a get-together with friends and family over coffee.

 

Tip 7: Avoid Poor Choices That Can Cause Problems with the Law, at School, at Home and in the Community

Poor choices made by students and their families can result in problems. This may cause a person to forfeit the benefits for earning an education. The benefits may be better jobs, better pay, better career options and better health status. Make sure you know the law about illegal drug use, sex offenses, property damage, theft, DWI, violence, social media violations, traffic violations and intentional and unintentional injuries, to name a few. Talk to your local school administrators, counselors, neighborhood officers and local police department to learn more about the law.

Education has a health benefit, too. Persons with education reported having lower prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, overweight/obesity, heart attack, heart disease or stroke and permanent teeth removed because of tooth decay or gum disease. Fewer reported being current smokers (smokes every day or some days), and more reported having leisure time for physical activity time. Many chronic diseases are multifactorial.

 

I am hopeful these tips to making it a more healthful school year are helpful to you and your family. You can send your health questions to !Hola, Oralia! at dr.oralia@gmail.com. Together, we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy.

Oralia Dominic

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