Expert Tips for a Healthy School Year

Beyond an annual physical, back-to-school is an ideal time for students and parents to take stock of their health. “The school year should be an enjoyable experience, and staying healthy–both physically and mentally–is one way to help get the most out of every day of class and extracurricular activities,” says Pennsylvania Medical Society President. Karen Rizzo, MD.

For students with food allergies, the cafeteria can be a minefield to navigate. It is important for students and parents to remain vigilant.

“Unfortunately, there’s no cure for food allergies,” explains Joel Fiedler, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Allergy and Asthma Association, “and sometimes the only line of defense for a person experiencing anaphylaxis is an EpiPen. Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and can happen with seconds after being exposed to an allergen.

“Children in school settings can be vulnerable, particularly since they may not pay attention to what they are eating or touching during their lunch period and in some cases may not even know they have a food allergy,” Dr. Fiedler says.

Backpacks are also cause for concern, especially if they are too heavy for the size of the child. Says Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society President Thomas Muzzonigro, MD, “As a general guideline, don’t allow your child to carry a backpack that’s more than 15 percent of their own body weight. Lugging around a ton of books and other supplies all day can eventually be problematic.”

When a heavy backpack is incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the weight's force can alter the child's posture. Many children will compensate by bending forward at the hips or arch the back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally. It's a recipe for shoulder, neck, and back pain.

School buses present inherent dangers, as well–all it takes is one distracted or impatient driver to pose serious risks to students. Todd Fijewski, president of the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians, encourages students to not dart in, out or around any bus, and to avoid texting and walking when getting on or off a bus.

Issues can also arise when a child feels apprehensive about the first day of school or a significant event during the year. Students should remain proactive–with the help of parents, if necessary–to effectively manage stress, advises Robert E. Wilson, MD, PhD, president of the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society. Dr. Wilson recommends students regularly give themselves positive feedback, reward themselves with leisure activities, exercise, eat a balanced diet, and develop time management skills.

Source: Pennsylvania Medical Society

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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