PhotoAs summer makes its exit, the new school year will make its entrance. With the beginning of school comes the inevitable onslaught of colds and ailments.

While there is often no way to prevent colds and bugs from coming home with your child, there are ways to deal with illnesses once they arrive. In doing so, parents can quickly snuff out colds and get kids back to school.

Preparing children for the back-to-school transition is an important first step in keeping sickness and ailments at bay, says Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an assistant professor of Family Medicine at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“This can be a big, stressful transition for kids and their parents. Starting to prepare for those changes now can mean fewer problems once that first school bell rings.”

Making the transition 

For parents, knowing ahead of time how to deal with ailments and illnesses is crucial. Caudle offers parents the following tips on preparing for the beginning of a new school year.

  • Get kids on a good sleep schedule. Phasing out the summer sleep schedule a few weeks prior to the first day of school can improve kids’ overall learning capacity. Preschoolers need about 12 hours of sleep per night, while teenagers can function on about eight hours of sleep. In either case, Dr. Caudle recommends sending kids to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night during the two to three weeks leading up to the first day.
  • Choose the right backpack. If your child has to lean forward to carry his or her backpack, there’s a good chance it’s too heavy. To keep added weight from leading to back pain or other medical conditions, Dr. Caudle advises parents to seek out backpacks with wide, padded straps and waist belts. Additionally, parents should teach kids to use both straps while carrying their backpack.
  • Keep allergies in check. Your child might encounter dust mites and mold at school. These allergens -- which can cause sniffling, sneezing, and watery eyes -- can disrupt their days and interfere with their learning. Stay one step ahead of these allergens by asking your child’s doctor how to manage allergy symptoms at school. Parents of kids with asthma or allergies should speak with the school nurse early in the school year.
  • Watch out for headaches. Kids aren’t always crying wolf when they complain of a headache, says Caudle. According to medical experts, headaches often increase among children at the start of the school year. Causes may range from stress and lack of sleep to changes in diet, but they are usually treatable by an over-the-counter medication. However, if your child’s headache is accompanied by a fever and stiff neck or if their vision is affected, contact a medical professional.

Battling bugs 

Sending kids off to school often means that colds, fevers, and stomach aches are right around the corner. For this reason, parents should learn how to deal with bugs once they show up.

Deciding if a child should stay home or see a physician is the first step. Caudle offers these tips on making the call:

  • Colds. Rest is best when it comes to fighting off cold symptoms such as coughing, fevers, sneezing, sore throats, body aches, runny noses, and sinus pressure. Kids should stay home from school -- but if a high fever persists, a visit to the doctor may be in order.
  • Pink eye. Conjunctivitis is highly contagious, so children should be kept home. A doctor or pediatrician can prescribe antibiotic eye drops and let you know when your child has the green light to return to school.
  • Stomach bugs. Kids should be kept home if they are vomiting or have diarrhea. Ailing tummies should gradually be introduced to clear liquids and bland foods. As with other ailments and illnesses, parents should contact a physician if symptoms persist for more than 24 hours.  

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