Expert Medical Advice About Going Back to School
“Do I have to wear a mask again this school year?”
My 12-year-old daughter asked me this question when we recently discussed going back to school. This question and many others are being asked by kids since the rules about the pandemic are always changing
I want to make sure my daughter is healthy and ready for school, so I turned to a medical expert to learn more about masks, immunizations and check-ups before returning to school this fall.
Schedule a Check-Up or Well Visit
If your child has not already had their yearly check-up, it is important to schedule one so that they can remain healthy throughout the school year. During this visit, you and your child can also discuss any mental health concerns.
Dr. Damon Korb, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in Los Gatos, CA, and author of Raising an Organized Child, says, “Think of going back to school the same way that you would have any year, but perhaps it is more important. We do not want to miss a potential problem to avoid another. Children should get all of their normal well visits and immunizations.”
Immunizations and Flu Shots
Dr. Korb recommends referring to the immunization schedule recommended by the CDC to make sure your child is up to date.
Sumana Reddy M.D. at Acacia Family Medical Group in Salinas, CA, says that everyone should make sure that they get a yearly flu shot. Flu shots are normally available starting in September. And it’s also important to get a Covid vaccine if your child hasn’t received one yet.
“Children can die from the flu. It’s very important to get your flu shot,” says Dr. Reddy.
Dr. Korb agrees, saying, “Getting the flu shot may actually reduce the likelihood of catching and spreading Covid.”
Dr. Reddy explains that most doctors are concerned about people being infected with the combination of Covid and the flu virus that will be circulating this fall. “The more families that get the flu vaccine the better it will be for everyone,” she says.
Unlike most vaccines, you need to get the flu shot yearly for it to be effective, since the strain of flu often changes.
If you don’t have insurance, vaccines will be provided for free by doctors due to the federally funded program Vaccines For Children. The program provides vaccines to children who might not be vaccinated because of an inability to pay. The vaccines are available at private physicians’ offices and public health clinics registered as VFC providers.
And if you do have insurance, there should not be a co-pay for receiving the vaccine.
“The Affordable Care Act requires private insurance companies to pay in full for vaccines recommended by the CDC,” says Dr. Reddy.
Dr. Reddy explains that some insurance companies might be exempt and that you should check with your insurance company about coverage before getting your vaccine.
Children might be unaware of the fact if their vision is not normal. This may lead to feeling frustrated about being unable to see the words in a book or in the classroom, causing a child to act out.
The CDC recommends that children’s eyes should be checked regularly by an eye doctor or pediatrician. Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is the most common cause of vision loss in children and can be treated if caught early, between the ages of 3 to 5 years old.
The American Optometric Association estimates that 80% of a child’s learning happens through observation. In the classroom, most of the teaching is done by displaying the information.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child visit a dentist for an initial check-up by the time they turn 1. According to the CDC, tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic diseases for kids ages 6 to 19. Research found that children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who have good oral health.
Fluoride can prevent about one-third of cavities in baby teeth. If your town water does not contain fluoride, you can ask your pediatrician or dentist to prescribe fluoride, which is typically taken in pill form once a day.
Kids that are going back to school might have anxiety about this transition from summer break.
“I recommend that all kids do a telehealth check-in with their pediatrician before going back to school to discuss the transition. Often parents think their kid is fine, but you want to have a chance to talk about stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Reddy.
During this check-in, you can also make sure that your vaccines are up to date or talk about any other mental health concerns.
Be a Role Model
Dr. Korb says, “Make sure you prepare your child by teaching and modeling safe behavior such as frequently washing hands.”
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine and many other publications. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05