5 Ways to Ensure Your Child’s Health This School Year

What parent doesn’t worry about their child?

It’s a good thing that conversations surrounding health and wellness are becoming more and more commonplace even with children. This is mainly due to the efforts of our own schools (see the recent health fair at Irvington Main Street School) and the millions of concerned parents all over the country. But aside from awareness, what else can we do to protect our children? Read on for five ways to ensure your child’s health this coming school year.

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Vaccination
Last June, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation removing non-medical exemptions from school vaccine requirements for children attending childcare programs and public, private, or parochial schools. In light of this, government clinics in Westchester are offering free immunizations to eligible children whose insurance doesn’t cover vaccines — an initiative that is good news for families looking to avoid sicknesses such as measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. If you haven’t yet, make sure to sign your child up for their vaccines, and be sure your child gets their annual flu shot in preparation for flu season, which usually starts in October.

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Sleep
Have you noticed that your children tend to stay up longer when they have access to gadgets such as cellphones, tablets, and computers? Using tech gadgets before bedtime can affect your child’s ability to sleep and cause them to feel sleepy during the day. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Penn State University has found a positive correlation between having a regular sleeping schedule for children and the long-term health benefits it has into their teenage years. This makes sense, as sleep plays an important role in your child’s physical and mental well-being. While there is no hard-and-fast rule about how many hours of sleep kids need on a daily basis, most experts recommend 9-11 hours of sleep for children aged 6-13.

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Exercise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 1 in 5 school-age children are obese. This can pose a problem for children everywhere, as obesity can lead to chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Avoiding problems like these early on can have a huge impact on your child’s future, as statistics gathered by Maryville University point to an epidemic of chronic diseases across America, many of which are closely related to obesity. Indeed, nearly half of the population could be diagnosed with a chronic illness by 2025 — a problem that you and your child can avoid by simply going for a stroll around the park or maybe playing sport with your child for an hour. Small daily habits like these, which should translate to 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity, could reap huge benefits for you and your child down the line.

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Nutrition
We often think of widespread hunger as a thing of the past or something only found in remote third-world countries, but the reality is that America is currently facing what scientists call “hidden hunger.” The focus here is nutrition, as 85% of Americans are lacking the essential vitamins they need every day to function properly. This can cause children to fall behind on the developmental curve, both physically and mentally, compared to children who are well fed on balanced, nutritious diet. Children with poor nutrition are smaller and have trouble learning, while also being more prone to things like diarrhea. Similar to sleep, nutrition does not have a one-size-fits-all solution; so make sure you consult your doctor on the nutritional requirements that suit your child.

Photo by Josh Willink

Mental Health
Lastly, health goes beyond physical well-being. While taking care of your child’s physical health should be a high top priority, it’s important you don’t neglect their mental well-being, too. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, you should keep an eye out for symptoms of anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depression, as they can manifest during childhood. They recommend that you seek professional help if your child experiences behavior or emotional difficulties related to the illnesses stated above for more than a few weeks. Remember, the earlier you detect and respond to these conditions, the easier it will be for your child to deal with them in the future.

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